Plan Would Ease Limits on Media Owners
By STEPHEN LABATON
Published: October 18, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — The head of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated an ambitious plan to relax the decades-old media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.
A proposal from Kevin J. Martin could change media ownership rules in two months.
Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months — a plan that, if successful, would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.
Among them are Samuel Zell, the Chicago investor who is seeking to complete a buyout of the Tribune Company, and Rupert Murdoch, who has lobbied against the rule for years so that he can continue controlling both The New York Post and a Fox television station in New York.
The proposal appears to have the support of a majority of the five commission members, agency officials said, although it is not clear that Mr. Martin would proceed with a sweeping deregulatory approach on a vote of 3 to 2 — something his predecessor tried without success. In interviews on Wednesday, the agency’s two Democratic members raised questions about Mr. Martin’s approach.
Mr. Martin said he was striving to reach a consensus with his fellow commissioners, both on the schedule and on the underlying rule changes, although he would not say whether he would move the measures forward if he were able to muster only three votes.
“We’ve had six hearings around the country already; we’ve done numerous studies; we’ve been collecting data for the last 18 months; and the issues have been pending for years,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “I think it is an appropriate time to begin a discussion to complete this rule-making and complete these media ownership issues.”
Officials said the commission would consider loosening the restrictions on the number of radio and television stations a company could own in the same city.
Currently, a company can own two television stations in the larger markets only if at least one is not among the four largest stations and if there are at least eight local stations. The rules also limit the number of radio stations that a company can own to no more than eight in each of the largest markets.
The deregulatory proposal is likely to put the agency once again at the center of a debate between the media companies, which view the restrictions as anachronistic, and civil rights, labor, religious and other groups that maintain the government has let media conglomerates grow too large.
As advertising increasingly migrates from newspapers to the Internet, the newspaper industry has undergone a wave of upheaval and consolidation. That has put new pressure on regulators to loosen ownership rules. But deregulation in the media is difficult politically, because many Republican and Democratic lawmakers are concerned about news outlets in their districts being too tightly controlled by too few companies.
In recent months, industry executives had all but abandoned the hope that regulators would try to modify the ownership rules in the waning days of the Bush administration.
“This is a big deal because we have way too much concentration of media ownership in the United States,” Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said at a hearing on Wednesday called to examine the digital transition of the television industry.
Rest of the article is here.
I agree with Senator Dorgan. There is NO WAY that this is remotely a good thing. We have too much ownership in too few hands RIGHT NOW, and not enough diverse voices are heard. There are stories that are not being told because of the corporate influence in media, and the changing of the rules would just make it worse. Call your Senator.