Skip to main content

Free Press Calls Martin Proposal 'Corporate Welfare'

Free Press, which has been backing an effort to derail Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin's plan to vote on media-ownership-rule changes by December, was not appeased by Martin's proposal to vote on only a modified lifting of the newspaper cross-ownership ban and no other media-ownership changes, such as like allowing more dual station ownership in smaller markets.

After Martin laid out his proposal in an op-ed in The New York Times, Free Press policy director Ben Scott shot back that it was still "corporate welfare for the largest media companies in the biggest cities."

Martin has proposed allowing broadcast stations and newspapers to be cross-owned only in the largest 20 markets, and even then only a station not among the top-four-rated.

But Scott said the proposal made no mention of the effects of consolidation on localism, diversity or local news, although Martin did make showing that the combo would increase news one of the considerations the FCC would take into account in reviewing such proposed deals.

The proposed rule would also contain "a giant loophole" that could open the back door to runaway media consolidation," Scott said in a statement. He did not say what the loophole was and was not available for comment, but on a conference call with reporters, Chairman Martin was asked about what appeared to be a more liberal waiver policy for smaller markets. Chairman Martin said he did not see it as more liberal, saying that there would be a presumption against allowing them. 

It could also be the fact that FCC rules would allow a TV-station owner in a top 20 market to buy a newspaper and hold it until the end of the license term, after which it could seek a waiver, while a newspaper could not buy a station in a similar top market without meeting the FCC criteria up front.