Sunday, December 23, 2007

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Media Ownership

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 fundamentally changed US broadcast ownership law. The 1996 Act directs the Federal Communications Commission to reexamine its broadcast ownership rules every few years and repeal or modify any regulation it determines to be no longer in the public interest.

Currently, the FCC is reviewing broadcast ownership rules including: the national television multiple ownership rule, the local television multiple ownership rule, the radio-television cross-ownership rule, the dual network rule the local radio ownership rule and the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule.

The FCC is collecting public comment in 2006 and is expected to make rule changes in 2007.
Below find the latest major developments,

a summary of the 2006 proceeding, input from the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee, links to the latest research, additional background as well as ways to keep up to date on the debate and links to organizations involved in the discussion.

Latest Updates:
Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash) introduced the Media Ownership Act of 2007 in the House
On Dec 18, the FCC voted to lift the newspaper-broadcast crossownership ban.
25 US senators sent FCC Chairmaan Martin a letter asking him to delay the media ownership vote.

On Dec 13, the Senate Commerce Committee held an FCC oversight hearing. (See recap)
The FCC has scheduled a Dec 18 vote on Chairman Martin's media ownership proposal. Commissioners Copps and Adelstein said, "This is a huge mistake."

The FCC has asked Congress to provide tax incentives to media companies that sell communications outlets to small businesses, including women and minorities.
A brief history of the newspaper-broadcast crossownership ban.

On December 5, 2007, the House Telecom Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on media ownership isssues.

On December 5, 2007, the Tribune Company sued the FCC over its decision to grant temporary waivers for the company's newspaper-broadcast cross-ownerships in five markets. FCC Commissioner Copps said the move was scripted by the FCC majority.
On December 4, 2007, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed a bill to block a Federal Communications Commission vote Dec. 18 on loosening its ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership.

On November 30, 2007, the FCC granted the Tribune Company waivers on newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules and authorized the transfer of control of Tribune Company from the existing shareholders to Sam Zell.

Updates posted 11.18.07

House Commerce Committe Chairman John Dingell has "serious concerns" about the timeline Chairman Martin has allowed for comment on media ownership rules changes.
FCC Chairman Martin has proposed changes to media ownership rules. Is he fulfilling a George Bush campaign promise?

The FCC will hold a final media ownership field hearing on Friday Nov 9 in Seattle.
The Media Ownership Act of 2007 would slow FCC Chairman Martin's plan to complete the media ownership rule review by Dec 18.

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on media ownership on November 8, 2007. See a recap
Media ownership was a hot topic at the FCC's hearing on localism on Oct 31, 2007.
Former FCC staffer Adam Candeub criticizes IG report
Media Ownership was a hot topic at an October 2007 Rainbow/PUSH symposium
Is time running out on the Bush FCC to change media ownership rules?
On September 5, 2007. the FCC's Inspector General released a report finding no evidence senior managers suppressed an agency report on locally owned TV stations because the results conflicted with FCC policy.

On September 9, 2007, the FCC backed off an effort to make new buyers responsible for the sins of previous station owners.

On September 27, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps suggested the agency is starting to speed up the pace of its examination of new media-ownership rules and warned that some important questions about minority media ownership need to be resolved before any rules are proposed.

On Thursday September 20, 2007, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein called for the creation of bipartisan, independent panel to review the more than 40 policy recommendations that were proposed by the FCC's Diversity Committee and the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.

On Thursday September 20, 2007, the FCC held a media ownership hearing in Chicago, IL. (See recap.)

Children lose when a company acquires multiple TV stations in their town, according to a study by Children Now.

On June 28, 2007, the FCC held a localism hearing in Portland, Maine.

On June 12, 2007, the Media Access Project and other groups asked the FCC to block the pending sale of the Tribune Company unless the conglomerate breaks up its joint newspaper and broadcast ownership in five cities.

The FCC held a public hearing on media ownership in Tampa (FL) Monday April 30. (See a recap
Local TV Station Ownership 2006 and Local Radio Station Ownership 2006 from the Project for Excellence in Journalism's The State of the News media 2007
Recap of FCC's Media Ownership hearing in Harrisburg (PA) 2/23
Spiked Study Leads to New FCC Query
December 15, 2006: The FCC has extended the deadline for filing comments in this proceeding until January 16, 2007.

December 11, 2006: The FCC will hold a media ownership hearing in Nashville (TN).
November 3, 2006: The FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee adopted a 2nd recommendation on the Commission's media ownership rules.

October 23, 2006: Many, many groups filed comments at the FCC on media ownership rules. See a recap of coverage.

October 23, 2006: The Benton Foundation and the Social Science Research Council released four independent academic studies on the impact of media consolidation in the U.S. These studies make clear that media consolidation does not correlate with better, more local or more diverse media content. To the contrary, they strongly suggest that media ownership rules should be tightened not relaxed.

Tuesday October 3, 2006: The FCC held a public hearing on media ownershio in Los Angeles (CA). See a recap of the meeting.

2006 Proceeding
On June 21, 2006, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that seeks comment on how to address the issues raised by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Prometheus v. FCC, which two years ago stayed and remanded several media ownership rules that the Commission had adopted in 2003.

The Further Notice also opens a comprehensive quadrennial review of all of the media ownership rules. The 1996 Telecommunications Act mandates that the FCC periodically review its broadcast ownership rules to determine "whether any of such rules are necessary in the public interest as a result of competition." The Further Notice details the issues raised in the Prometheus case regarding the Commission̢۪s earlier decisions and rationale. It discusses, and invites comment on, the rules that the court remanded:

Should the Commission revise the limits adopted in the 2003 decision on the number of broadcast stations that can be commonly owned in one market, or is there additional evidence or analysis available now upon which the Commission can rely to further justify the limits adopted then?

Should the Commission revise these numerical limits or is additional evidence available to further justify them?

How should the Commission address radio/television and newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership issues?

The Notice seeks comment on the court̢۪s remand of certain proposals relating to minority ownership. A summary of the FCC FNPFM is available here. Comments in the proceeding are due October 23, 2006. Reply comments are due on January 16, 2007. The FCC provides information about how to file a comment.

Consumer Advisory Committee Input

On July 21, 2006, the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee recommended that it would be in the best interest of consumers for the Commission to adopt a process in the 2006 media ownership review that will provide a full record on the potential impact of media ownership concentration and actively engage consumers in the proceeding.

CAC believes it is necessary to have a transparent process that ensures consumers understand the full implications of Commission decisions. Such an open forum is especially critical for public input on issues of this magnitude, especially where the main purveyors of information have historically provided little coverage of this issue. To these ends, the CAC recommends that the Commission:

begin a comprehensive proceeding to adopt rules that will promote the core values of localism, competition, and diversity, and that will expand the multiplicity of voices and choices that support our marketplace of ideas and that sustain American democracy and creativity,

schedule and attend a series of hearings across the country to engage the American people on the future of their media and to gain a better understanding of the impact of media concentration on our communities,

compile a far more complete record, including independent research studies on media concentration in a variety of markets, so that the Commission can make a decision on a more solid foundation that the 2003 effort,

in releasing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, provide full notice and a significant comment period on the specific proposals, as warranted, so that the public knows what new rules the Commission is considering.

On November 3, 2006, the CAC adopted a second recommendation on the 2006 Quadrennial Regulatory Review of the Commission's Media Ownership Rules. The recommendation asks the FCC to adopt media ownership rules that promote:

Local ownership of broadcast outlets;
Competition as manifested through increased responsiveness to community needs and increased diversity of programming; and
Ownership opportunities for minorities, women and people with disabilities.
In addition, the recommendation reiterates the CAC's previous call to compile a complete record and issue specific rules changes for public comment -- and asks the Commission to aggressively enforce its media ownership rules. (See full text of the recommendation.) For additional information about the CAC recommendation, click here.

Latest Research & Resources

FCC Media Ownership Rules: Current Status and Issues for Congress Congressional Research Service (updated March 13, 2007)
Rethinking the Discourse on Race: How the Lack of Racial Diversity in Media Affects Social Justice and Policy

A Tale of Five Cities: Why the Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-Ownership Ban Should be Preserved

Citizens Speak: The Real World Impacts of Media Consolidation

The Benton Foundation and the Social Science Research Council released four independent academic studies on the impact of media consolidation in the U.S.

How Bigger Media Will Hurt Selected States

Compendium of Public Interest Research on Media Ownership, Diversity and Localism

Out of the Picture: Minority & Female TV Station Ownership in the United States
Local TV Ownership
Do Local Owners Deliver More Localism? Some Evidence From Local Broadcast News
Draft 2003 "Review of the Radio Industry"

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in early June 2003 to relax the nation's media ownership rules, resulting in strong reactions to the decision that is spurring court action and new legislation.

The FCC is an independent, federal regulatory body that sets the limits on who can own what media properties. Congress has mandated that the nation's media ownership rules promote "localism, competition, and diversity in the media." Among other things the overturned rules limited a single corporation from dominating local TV markets or from merging a community's TV stations, radio stations, and newspaper. They also prevented the merging of two of the major Television networks (FOX, NBC, ABC, or CBS).

Proponents of the deregulatory course the FCC has set in motion say the existing rules cannot withstand court challenges and are obsolete with the growth of the Internet, cable, and satellite TV. Vocal opponents of
deregulation fear that a greater concentration of media ownership will lead to fewer voices, excessive control over content, and less local news -- threatening democracy in the digital age. Members of Congress are advancing legislation to reverse the FCC's decision.

Keeping Up to Date

Benton's Communications-Related Headlines provides daily updates on developments in the realm of media ownership and other pressing communications issues. For just stories related to media ownership, follow this link.


A number of websites provide online background information and other related links. A select list follows:

Media Access Project
Stop Big Media
Institute for Public Representation
Center for Digital Democracy
Children Now
National Association of Broadcasters
Common Cause
Timeline: The FCC Media Ownership Rules Controversy, 1996 through 2006
Attachment Size
summary.doc 52.5 KB

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