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Martin: Cross-Ownership Vote Would End Media-Ownership Proceeding

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said he is essentially done with the years-long media-ownership proceeding once he votes on what he calls his "significantly more moderate" proposal, outlined Tuesday, which would be confined to loosening the ban on newspaper-broadcast station cross-ownership.

"I am not seeking further ownership changes in the television-duopoly rules or the radio-ownership caps," he said in a call with reporters Tuesday.

But how does that square with his deregulatory philosophy and his vote on the 2003 rule rewrite, which is what the new proposal is "significantly more moderate" than? "I think the distinction between those rules," he said, "and the newspaper rule" is that all of those rules were significantly relaxed in the mid-1990s," but that the newspaper rule has never been relaxed. That puts it in a completely different light than the other rules for which relief has already been provided."

Martin was called on by a number of senators, led by Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), to open separate proceedings on broadcast localism and minority ownership. When asked at a press conference Tuesday whether that meant he would not open those proceedings, Martin said he already put some proposals in front of the other commissioners addressing minority ownership and issues, which they have yet to be voted on.

He also said he put a promised report on localism in front of the other commissioners this week, along with some proposals, including toughening reporting requirements for stations on their public service.

Martin said he hoped to vote on those proposals before a planned Dec. 18 ruling on his cross-ownership changes.

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.