Watchdogs oppose relaxed cross-ownership rules


A coalition of public interest groups spearheaded by Media Access Project and the Institute for Public Representation is arguing that the FCC’s move to relax newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership restrictions under former Chairman Kevin Martin flies in the face of the FCC directive to increase ownership diversity and should be scrapped.

The gist of the argument focuses on these points: That the new rules are “marred by procedural irregularities, ambiguous provisions, and loopholes, all of which counter the rule’s stated purpose to increase diversity in the marketplace of ideas.”

They argue further that “The Commission also neglected to address whether its modification of broadcast ownership rules would harm minority and female media ownership – despite the court’s instruction to the Commission to promote such ownership. Further, the Commission put in place a standardless waiver that allows media outlets to merge based on promises that the FCC cannot monitor or enforce.”

MAP VP Andrew Jay Schwartzman said, “The Commission’s 2008 cross-ownership rule is fraught with loopholes that further limit diversity in our media environment. Given the Commission’s aims to increase diversity, the enactment of this rule was the antithesis of reasoned decision-making.”

The comments were included in a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

RBR-TVBR observation: Think that things move slowly in Washington? Consider that the attempt to revise media ownership rules was essentially kicked off by Michael Powell in the fall of 2002 (and some would trace its origins further even further back into the past).

It is now the spring of 2010 and the ball is still resting just about on the 50 yard line. This is particularly true in the case of cross-ownership, where numerous existing combinations have been trapped in a quarterly waiver renewal hamster wheel for the duration.