By Paul Barbagallo
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced late
Feb. 26 that he will postpone a vote on changes to the agency's media ownership
rules to allow time for an independent study on the effects of cross-ownership
on minorities and newsgathering.
The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council will conduct the study,
which is expected to take “several weeks,” Genachowski said. After the study is
completed, the FCC will solicit public input and cast a final vote, he said.
“In this heavily-litigated area where a strong record is particularly
important, I believe this is a sensible approach to moving forward and resolving
the issues raised in this proceeding,” the chairman said in a statement posted
to the agency's web site.
Among the changes proposed to the media-ownership rules by Genachowski is the
elimination of a decades-old ban on one company owning a newspaper and a
broadcast television station in the same market. If given final approval by the
majority of FCC commissioners, there would be a presumption that in the 20
largest U.S. markets, such cross-ownership is in the public interest if a
“diversity of information sources” remains and if the TV station involved is not
one of the four top stations in the market.
Another Genachowski proposal would remove the bar on cross-ownership of radio
stations and newspapers.
The Newspaper Association of America and the National Association of
Broadcasters have supported lifting the ban, arguing that the internet, as well
as cable and satellite TV channels, has made the FCC's cross-ownership rule
irrelevant. In response to the release of the notice of proposed rulemaking more
than a year ago, the NAB has suggested that lifting the ban could even save
“Circulation of the proposed order has led to healthy discussions among
commissioners and stakeholders about the substance of the issues and the state
of the record before the agency,” Genachowski said. “The study…addresses an
issue of importance, will augment the record, and will assist the commission in
resolving the issues before it on the full record.”
The proposed rules stem from the commission's 2010 quadrennial media
ownership review, which was supposed to be completed in 2010 but stalled as the
FCC awaited a court ruling on the issue.