Editorial: Try, Try Again

Another media ownership review bites the dust. We’re not surprised. Said reviews have been defeated in almost as many ways as Gilligan failed to get off the island. They’ve been blocked by courts, remanded for fixes, delayed by impact studies…and now, FCC chief Tom Wheeler has pulled from the docket the former FCC chair’s proposal to loosen newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules and lift the ban on radio/newspaper and radio/TV cross-ownership.

Wheeler wants to put his stamp on the FCC, which does not mean starting from scratch. But it does mean making this and other items his own. It is also most likely to be rolled into the 2014 ownership review—the current one was due in 2010, some 1,100 days ago. So there were practical as well as policy reasons for taking former chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan off the table.

An FCC source said Wheeler is still committed to getting something out the door as expeditiously as possible, and we will take them at their word. Wheeler’s forward-leaning stride suggests an executive who wants things done, and done now, which is confirmed by observers of the pace of the FCC under its new boss.

It also makes sense to combine the two reviews. But expedience toward the wrong goal is no improvement over inaction.

The FCC should resist calls to use the reboot to further limit broadcasters’ ability to compete. If the FCC gets broadcasters to give up spectrum to the incentive auction, it should be because that offer is attractive in a free marketplace, not because the agency has put two thumbs and a hand on the scale by making it more difficult to remain a broadcaster.