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Media Ownership Won't Wrap Until 2012

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski last week unveiled the agency’s preliminary plan for a retrospective regulatory review that it agreed to come up with at the request of the White House, saying its quadrennial media ownership regulations review won’t be done until next year. The plan also managed to promote spectrum reclamation, a drumbeat out of the FCC for many months.

The media ownership review had been delayed while a federal court was mulling challenges to the FCC’s last attempt to change the rules back in 2007, and then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s loosening of the newspaperbroadcast cross-ownership ban. The court wound up throwing out that decision in July because it failed to meet proper notice and comment requirements for the change and remanded it back to the commission. The court upheld Martin’s decision not to loosen any other ownership rules.

The current chairman did not miss the opportunity to work in a plug for spectrum incentive auctions as part of a speech at Georgetown, where the plan was outlined. “Perhaps the biggest area where changes in technology require a rethinking of FCC rules is mobile communications,” he said. And after some FCC rethinking, Genachowski promoted the commission’s answer. “We have urged Congress to adopt [the] proposal from the National Broadband Plan for voluntary incentive auctions, so that we can move forward with marketbased auctions that will free up spectrum for flexible broadband use. It has passed the Senate Commerce Committee by a bipartisan and overwhelming 21-4 vote, and I’m hopeful it will become law this year. I’m also concerned about the negative effects on our mobile economy and mobile consumers if it doesn’t.”

For the most part, the preliminary plan Genachowski outlined and which was posted on the FCC’s Website makes the point that the commission has already been doing retrospective, cost-benefit analysis of its regulations.