FCC Chairman To Relax Media Ownership Rules

Media conglomerates are preparing to feast on a banquet of local media outlets thanks to a resurrected proposal from FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. The Chairman wants to relax decades-old rules that bar media companies from owning both a newspaper and TV or radio station in the same local market. A similar proposal was presciently struck down three years ago by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

“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.”

“Mr. Martin faces obstacles within the agency to overhauling the rules. One Democrat on the commission, Michael J. Copps, is adamantly opposed to loosening the rules. The other, Jonathan S. Adelstein, has said that the agency first needs to address other media issues, including encouraging improved coverage of local events and greater ownership of stations by companies controlled by women and minorities.

Advisers to Mr. Martin said he hoped to gain the support of at least one of the Democrats, probably Mr. Adelstein, but Mr. Adelstein said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Martin’s proposed timetable was “awfully aggressive.”

Two powerful Senators, Commerce Committee member Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Republican Whip Trent Lott (R-MS), have urged the Chairman to back away from a planned December 18 vote. The Chairman will have to answer to Dorgan if he obstinately continues on his flawed course.

“If in fact the chairman has indicated that he intends to do media ownership by December of this year, there is going to be a firestorm of protest, and I’m going to be carrying the wood.”

FCC urged to hold up on media owner rules [Bloomberg]
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

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  1. suburbancowboy says:

    This is just really bad news.
    The media in this country has already become a joke. I have to read foreign newspapers and websites to find out what is really going on in my own country.

    On a side note, they will allow this, and every merger on the planet, yet for some reason they are still not letting Sirius and XM merge.

  2. CurbRunner says:

    George Orwell was right, he just had the wrong year.
    Get ready for the one unified, homogenized, sanitized propaganda outlet in every community.

    Controlled mass media means control of thought, just another sign of creeping fascism. Zeig Heil!

  3. NickRB says:

    These rules are important to prevent a monopoly in news. How awful would it be if you were a conservative and the New York Times controlled all of the news?! OR vise versa you were a liberal and Fox controlled all the media?!

  4. TWinter says:

    That’s Sieg Heil Curbrunner I don’t think misspellings will be tolerated in the “new order” of things.

    This is just bad bad news. Are the Republicans trying to ram this stuff through while Bush is still in power because they know that it will be hard to dismantle this stuff later. It is easier to stop a purchase than to force a sale.

  5. charmaniac says:

    Media Consolidation has allowed companies to control the national debate. Remember when Clinton was president and we heard every day that his poll numbers were going down during the Lewisnky thing?

    Bush has the lowest poll numbers of any president since they have been taking polls – 24%. Do we ever hear about that? Rarely, and only in the context of congressional poll numbers which are much lower. The mainstream media is bought and paid for by the right wing. Its fortunate that the Internet has allowed people to get information from other places. All these mainstream media outlets will be obsolete in 15 years.

  6. magus_melchior says:

    @NickRB: It goes beyond that. If one company owned all media, the only criticism of that company would appear on the odd website or blog, either of which can be sued out of existence.

  7. CurbRunner says:

    @TWinter said:

    “I don’t think misspellings will be tolerated in the ‘new order’ of things.”

    Thanks TWinter for your warning, I should have known better but I think it’s to late.
    They’ve already surrounded my house. I guess I’ll have to turn myself in now and let them make a spectacle out of this in front of all my neighbors as they drag me out in a straight jacket and fly me to the CSRC (Corrective Spelling Rendition Center).

  8. brokekid says:

    This idea is abhorrently wrong and damages what’s left of the Fourth Estate. Imagine every medium of information exchange controlled by people like Rupert Murdoch, we’ll be headed straight toward an Orwellian society. Truly frightening.

  9. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    If this country were still ‘free’ it would make a difference. The FCC was bought and paid for long ago, and this is just a formality.

  10. azntg says:

    How much did Martin get paid off, or better yet, how brainwashed did he get from watching the duopoly TV stations?

    In my opinion, major media companies already own and control too many radio/tv stations and newspapers, if they’re in that business. And no, it sucks because no matter what part of the country you go to, they’re all carbon copies of each other, some marginally better than others! It’s one thing if the “original” is good to begin with… but that’s not the case.

    If anything, the FCC chairman should propose reverting back to the previous rules of ownership. Duopolies laid waste to otherwise good and valuable broadcasting licenses, and multiple ownership of radio gives us nothing “special” to listen to.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:

    @CurbRunner:

    I dunno, I’ve always felt that Farenheit 451 more accurately reflects the handbasket in which we are going to hell.

  12. zentec says:

    I’m not too concerned about the effects of this ruling on the political landscape. Newspapers built many of the TV stations in this country, while they owned radio stations within their markets. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s not one that’s new.

    My biggest objection is that we’re protecting the corporate profits of companies by pretty much giving them monopolies on advertising. The only good that is going to come out of this is on Wall Street, that rejoices over great advertising revenues from the companies that own papers and television stations.

    Once again, bad for the consumer, great for big business.

  13. mrearly2 says:

    The government is supposed to work to protect our rights, not sell out to corporate interests, as they have, re the FDA and the drug companies.
    There is supposed to be such a thing as “freedom of the press”, but all means nowadays is, freedom for the press to lie to us with very little truth being publicized. Plus, with dwindling competition, the sky’s the limit for profit…

  14. 75Sasha says:

    Lott is from Mississippi not Michigan. Please don’t associate him with my (nicely Blue) former state. Even though I agree with him on this issue, I still don’t want his taint on the state I grew up in.

  15. fredmertz says:

    My god — what would happen if one company were allowed to own a tv station and a newspaper in the same market. Can you imagine if the same people owned Fox 5 in New York AND the New York Post? New Yorkers would surely become rabid right wingers if such a crazy thing happened.

  16. kenboy says:

    @fredmertz: Well, they’ve been issuing exemptions all over the place for years. I don’t think there’s much of an issue with one (of six) tv stations and one (of three) newspapers sharing ownership; the real issue is what happens in smaller markets, where the Fox affiliate and the independents likely don’t have news and there’s only one newspaper. If there’s a co-owned tv/print outfit in places like that, fully half of the news sources in town are owned by the same company.

  17. Corbu says:

    Well, what do we expect when bribery is essentially legal in this country in the form of lobbying and campaign contributions? This is just another example of a major political decision that benefits NO ONE except the people running the companies that are subject to the regulations. Obviously.

    But what are we going to do about it? The only way this shit is going to stop is if we get those that are being bribed to make bribery illegal. Good luck with that. Change happens when people get really pissed off and take to the streets in large numbers, but they have to KNOW what’s going on in order to do that. Thanks for taking that fundamental aspect of democracy off the table, FCC.

    I can’t wait til the media waters down this election like the last one, so we can have another good ol’ boy like Hillary in office, if not someone even worse. Our country is like a big, dumb machine that just lumbers along into infinity because it has too much inertia for anyone to stop it. God knows what this place will look like by the time I have kids… hopefully I’ll be living in a cave in Iceland by then. God Bless America!

  18. fredmertz says:

    @kenboy: I think in the day and age of the Internet, there really aren’t local media markets anymore.

  19. JiminyChristmas says:

    @fredmertz: That may be true for most of the people who, say, read this site. However, the vast majority of people still get their news from local/network tv, local newspapers, and radio.

    A minority of people get news from the internet in any form. Many who do just read the websites affiliated with their local tv stations or newspapers.

  20. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    New Yorkers will never become rabid right-wingers. They’d simply secede and join Canada, then proceed to throw Fox 5 out of the city, sending it to New Jersey, like they do to everything that they find undesirable.

  21. dustinkyle says:

    i could be totally mistaken about the details of this, but how does the Belo Corporation own both the D/FW ABC (WFAA) affiliate and the Dallas Morning News?

  22. synergy says:

    Lott is still alive? God, when IS he going to croak?!