FCC proposes relaxing newspaper-TV ownership rules


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The Federal Communications Commission is trying once again to blow out rules that prohibit companies from owning both a television station and a newspaper in the same big city.

As part of a review of its media ownership rules, the FCC said it wanted relax the newspaper and television cross-ownership rule in top-20 markets. The agency tried a similar maneuver in 2007, but media watchdogs argued that it would lead to a loss of independent voices and too much media consolidation. The battle ended up in a federal court, which said the agency had not given the public enough time to comment on the proposed changes. This time around, the FCC will provide a 45-day window for comments.


Some media companies -- including Tribune Co., the parent of the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV Channel 5 -- have waivers to own both a paper and a TV station in the same city. In New York, News Corp. owns two TV stations and the New York Post.

The FCC’s move was met with anger by advocacy groups, which are gearing up to fight its proposals.

‘The public understands that excessive concentration of media ownership is bad for democracy, so we expect to convince the FCC to take a stronger position in the end,’ said Andrew Schwartzman, senior vice president of the Media Access Project.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who will be leaving the agency soon, also expressed concern about Thursday’s proposals.

‘In the vast majority of cases, I do not believe that newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership advances the public interest,’ Copps said in a statement. ‘It means fewer voices in the community, less localism in the industry, and steep transactional costs that all too often lead to downsized or shuttered newsrooms and fired journalists.’

The National Assn. of Broadcasters, which is the TV industry’s chief lobbying arm, said it supports gutting the newspaper-television cross-ownership rules.


‘We believe journalism jobs could be saved under that scenario,’ association President Gordon Smith said in a statement. ‘Given the explosion of media outlets, we believe nearly 40-year-old ownership rules that restrict free and local broadcasting ought to be reformed to reflect today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.’


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-- Joe Flint