The gripes of –Roth, revisited


That’s as in ex-FCC Commissioner and free market guru Harold Furchtgott-Roth, who has taken to the pages of the New York Sun to protest the senatorial protest of current FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s modest liberalization of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules.

Furchtgott-Roth attributes the onset of the rules to the presidency of Richard M. Nixon (R). “President Nixon, so the story goes, wanted to punish the Washington Post for its investigative journalism, and his FCC obliged with rules restricting newspaper and broadcast ownership. These rules have nothing to do with legitimate antitrust review or other forms of reasonable government review. America has the dubious distinction of being among those countries whose government reviews and, in some instances, vetoes who may own a newspaper.”

He argues that the argument that diversity of ownership promotes diversity of viewpoint is not needed thanks to the wide open platform offered by the internet; that competitive concerns may be addressed by antitrust laws already on the books; and that the same principles could easily be co-opted and transferred to other areas of ownership, such as real estate or financial assets.

He concluded, “When the government engages in the identity politics of promoting ‘diversity of ownership,’ we are all the poorer. One government may find our ownership diverse, the next may not. House members may want to review the First Amendment before voting to continue the federal government’s blanket authority to regulate ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations.

RBR/TVBR observation: Furchtgott-Roth suggests that the thrust of the cross-ownership ban is to allow the government to decide who may own a newspaper. Is it just us, or is that a bit of a stretch? Say what you will about cross-ownership. You may be for it or against it. But the only thing it does is restrict the newspaper ownership prospects of a few thousand station licensees, leaving the remaining hundreds of millions of us with no restrictions of any kind. And maybe the hint that real estate and finance are next in line is just a tad alarmist – unless Furchtgott-Roth can explain what’s been keeping them from extending this media ban to those other areas all these may years.