Free Press Slams FCC Media Ownership Proposal

Free Press slammed FCC chairman Julius Genachowski over
media ownership rule revisions being proposed for a vote by the other

"Chairman Genachowski's attempt to overhaul longstanding
media ownership limits is little more than a gift-wrapped giveaway to Rupert
Murdoch," said Free Press CEO Craig Aaron in a statement. "Recycling
the Bush administration's failed policies not only ignores the will of the
courts and Congress but is a slap in the face of the 99% of Americans who
oppose further media consolidation."

The chairman is proposing loosening the newspaper/TV station
cross-ownership ban in the top 20 markets, and lifting restrictions entirely on
newspaper/radio cross-ownership. But he is also proposing to start counting
some joint sales agreements toward local ownership caps, caps the commission is
not lifting.

Free Press also argues, as have a number of minority group advocates,
that the FCC is rushing a vote before it has adequately determined their impact
on women and minorities, a determination they say a federal appeals court

There are also some FCC staffers who wonder whether the new
rules will pass muster with that court if they are approved and then challenged
by one side of the other, as is almost a foregone conclusion. As with the last
attempt to revamp the rules in 2007, there are opponents on both sides. The
Free Press contingent that believes the industry is too consolidated already,
so that any additional deregulation is too much, and broadcasters, who wanted
the FCC to lift the TV/newspaper ban, not just loosen it, and deregulation of
the local ownership rules.

The chairman was said to have wanted to slate the vote on
the rule changes at the November meeting, but Superstorm Sandy may have thrown
off that timetable -- it was not on the Nov. 30 meeting agenda and can't be
added now. He has said publicly he wanted a vote by the end of the year, so it can
either he voted on circulation or at the December meeting if he is to meet that

Various FCC sources have suggested the chairman was looking
for a vote on circulation, though that struck others as inviting the kind of
criticism that Free Press leveled in the following: "The FCC is also
reportedly attempting to avoid holding a vote on the matter at an open FCC
meeting, and the agency has not held any public hearings on the proposed rule
changes," said Free Press in a statement.

The rules were remanded to the FCC by the Third Circuit in
part because of complaints that then-chairman Kevin Martin back in 2007 had not
supplied sufficient notice or opportunity for comment on his changes. They were
voted at a public meeting, but he first announced them in an editorial in the
Wall Street Journal only three weeks before the vote, which the Third circuit
said didn't cut it.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.