Veteran News Corp. critic Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
is the latest legislator to ask FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to rethink his
media ownership proposal.
The chairman has circulated an item loosening the newspaper/TV
cross-ownership rules and lifting limits on newspaper/radio and TV/radio cross-ownership,
which has upset a number of longstanding consolidation critics, including
minority groups who say the FCC has not sufficiently gauged the rule change's
impact on diversity, as a federal court instructed it to do.
"I urge the FCC to carefully review, in an open and
transparent manner, the full impact of any such revisions before enacting
them," he wrote.
In a letter on Monday, Lautenberg renewed his criticisms of
News Corp.'s WWOR-TV Secaucus, which the senator says "has not lived up to
its obligations to serve the people of New Jersey." News Corp. disputes
that characterization. He asked the FCC to review the revisions before voting
The item is currently circulated among the other
commissioners, but the chairman has said the commission will continue to accept
comments on an associated media ownership/diversity report that informed the
item until early January, so no vote is expected before then.
"Given New Jersey's unfortunate experience with media
consolidation, I am particularly disappointed to learn that the FCC is
considering modifying its media ownership rules to the benefit of major media
companies and to the detriment of local news coverage," said Lautenberg.
"It is no secret that I have been frustrated by the FCC's pace of its
review of WWOR-TV's license, which has prevented New Jerseyans from seeing the
improved local news coverage they deserve. It is troubling that amidst
this inaction on a license that expired in 2007, the FCC is acting to further
consolidate media ownership and risk a decline in local news coverage."
News Corp. owns and operates WWOR, WNYW New York and The New York Post under an FCC waiver of
the cross-ownership rules.
The FCC is expected to be asked about the ownership item at
a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on incentive auctions Wednesday,
but is also expected to continue to maintain that the rules have been vetted,
diversity has been taken into account, and that loosening the regs is in the
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.
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