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Free Press Opposes FCC Proposal to Relax Ownership Rules

Media consolidation foes took aim at the FCC Monday for proposing to loosen newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules and scrapping the ban on TV-radio cross-ownership.

"[T]he FCC has no business relaxing its ownership rules when it has shown it can't even hold broadcasters to the letter of existing law," said Free Press in comments filed Monday (March 5) in the FCC's quadrennial ownership rule review. "The local TV ownership rule is supposed to promote competition between local stations, but some broadcasters are skirting the rules by entering into secret deals to combine local newsrooms and station operations," said Free Press. "If it walks like a duopoly and talks like a duopoly, it should be treated like a duopoly under the Commission's rules."

The FCC has asked whether it should count joint operating or sales agreements toward ownership rule limits, but did not propose doing so.

Media Access Project and Prometheus Radio Project gave the FCC props for not lifting the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban and saying that restrictions were still needed to promote viewpoint diversity. They also said that they were "heartened" that the FCC had concluded that the Internet "only confirmed the need for diversity in local news since the most frequently visited sites were affiliated with legacy media.