[opendtv] FCC Commissioners disagree on media cross-ownership rules

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2007 12:54:30 -0500

Chairman Martin proposes to allow local newspapers in large markets to own one 
radio or one TV station. Arguing that we now have many more news outlets than 
we did 30 years ago, and that otherwise a lot of newspapers will simply go out 
of business.


This is the reaction of Commissioners Copps and Adelstein:


November 13, 2007                      Rick Chessen:    202 418 2000
                                 Rudy Brioché:   202 418 2300


This is portrayed as a moderate proposal, but it is a wolf in sheep's clothing. 
 Don't let the wool be pulled over your eyes.  The proposal could repeal the 
ban in every market in America, not just the top twenty.  Any city, no matter 
how small, could be subjected to newspaper broadcast ownership combinations 
under a very loose standard.

Under Chairman Martin's plan, all markets will be open to one company combining 
broadcast properties with cable, the newspaper (already a monopoly in most 
places), even the Internet Service Provider.  His proposal could propel a 
frenzy of competition-stifling mergers across the land.  He can try to 
characterize his plan as affecting only the "largest markets," but consider:

o The top 20 markets account for over 43% of U.S. households.  Even on its 
face, this proposal directly affects over 120 million Americans.

o The Chairman then creates a loophole that Big Media will drive a truck 
through, permitting a newspaper-broadcast combination in any market in the 
country.  We have seen how loosely the Commission has granted waivers in the 
past.  If this proposal goes through, the FCC could grant cross-ownership 
applications in such small towns as Meridian, Mississippi and Bend, Oregon.  
When big conglomerates can't get their way in a general rule, they press for 
loopholes that swallow the rule, and they would succeed with this approach.

o The non-top four stations that major newspapers will now be competing for are 
precisely the stations more likely to be owned by small, independent 
broadcasters.  If we ever got serious about women and minority ownership, these 
are also the stations most available to them.  Chairman Martin's rule pretty 
much reserves these outlets for the big guys. So this proposal actually 
perpetuates the shamefully low levels of minority and female media ownership.

The Martin rules are clearly not ready for prime time.  Under the Chairman's 
timetable, we count 19 working days for public comment.  That is grossly 
insufficient.  The American people should have a minimum of 90 days to comment, 
just as many Members of Congress have requested.  More importantly, the 
Commission has yet to finish its Localism proceeding, teed up four years ago, 
or to forward comprehensive ideas to increase women and minority ownership of 
broadcast outlets.

There is still time to do this the right way.   Congress and the thousands of 
American citizens we have talked to want a thoughtful and deliberate 
rulemaking, not an alarming rush to judgment characterized by insultingly short 
notices for public hearings, inadequate time for public comment, flawed studies 
and a tainted peer review process - all designed to make sure that the Chairman 
can deliver a generous gift to Big Media before the holidays.  For the rest of 
us: a lump of coal.

We realize there is some urgency with respect to the Tribune transaction.  The 
Chairman, however, has refused to act on Tribune's waiver requests that would 
permit the transaction to close.  Let us be clear:  it is improper to hold the 
Tribune hostage in order to force a vote on media ownership before the end of 
the year.  We are prepared to vote on the Tribune waiver requests within three 
working days after the Chairman circulates a draft decision.  There is simply 
no excuse for using Tribune as a human shield.

I think, instead, that it is difficult to rationalize why the 
newspaper/radio/TV cross-ownership rules should be very different from the TV 
and radio station local ownership cap rules, any longer. Isn't it most 
important to encourage multiple sources of news, without limiting the media 
each of these multiple sources can use? As long as these local caps are set low 
enough, this should work.

If people are not reading newspapers, then what's wrong with having those 
newspaper points of view aired over media people do use?

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