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FCC Issues RFPs for Media Ownership Studies

The FCC has released its request for proposals (RFP) for media ownership studies. It is commissioning nine studies but is also asking for suggestions on any others it might want to consider.

The studies are an effort to make the media ownership rule review a data-driven exercise with input on how different ownership structures affect competition, localism and diversity, the three pillars of the FCC's public interest-protection job description.

The FCC is currently reviewing all its media ownership rules to determine if they are still "necessary in the public interest," a charter given to it by Congress.

Studies include a consumer survey on the value of TV and radio, and ones on level of civic engagement, availability and use of local Internet content, the impact of minority ownership and programming, the quality of news and public affairs programming, viewpoint diversity, and range of viewpoints supplied.

The FCC will have to get the study process moving if it wants to get the ownership review done by year's end, as has been the plan.

It has set a deadline of July 7 for comments on what new studies it might to want to commission. Then it will have to approve the bids for the studies it has already outlined, get the studies done and peer-reviewed, and take them into account in the quadrennial review. That end-of-the-year time frame is looking increasingly unlikely, said an aide to one of the commissioners.

Specifically, the FCC is looking at five rules: the local TV ownership rule, the local radio ownership rule, the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule, the radio/TV cross-ownership rule, and the dual-network rule. It issued a notice of inquiry (NOI) May 25 launching the review process, including an open call for study proposals.

Studies for recent reviews under former chairmen came under fire from congressional Democrats and commission Democrats--Commissioner Michael Copps and former commissioner Jonathan Adelstein--for being used to support already-drawn conclusions, and for how the winning bidders were chosen. The commission source said this time around the commission is "leaning toward" a committee of four or five members who would go through the top bids. And there will be a peer review of the studies.

One of the FCC's mantras under Chairman Julius Genachowski has been collecting good data before deciding how to proceed on an issue.