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Common Cause, Benton Challenge FCC Ownership Change

Yet another challenge has been filed to the Federal Communications Commission's decision to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, a decision that has drawn more fire than an 18-point buck on the first day of hunting season.

Common Cause, the Benton Foundation, Consumers Action, the Massachusetts Consumers' Coalition, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and others filed a petition with the FCC Monday asking it to reconsider and modify the decision to loosen the rules, to grant waivers to some existing combinations and to reconsider its decision not to tighten -- or loosen -- TV or radio local ownership rules.

For one thing, it wants the commission to rescind waivers it granted Media General for combos in Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Panama City, Fla.; and Tri-Cities, Tenn./Va., as well as Gannett for its Phoenix combo.

They also want the commission to:

• Revise the rule so that waivers will be granted only if it is presumed in the public interest, saves a failing media outlet or passes a tougher test on the provision of local news.

• Require applicants to provide ample public notice of merger/waiver requests and seek such waivers within 30 days of a purchase.

The peition was filed on behalf of the groups by the Institute for Public Representation of the Georgetown University Law Center

The groups join close to two-dozen challenges to the rule change in court and at the FCC.