Skip to main content

MMTC: FCC Should Seek More Comment before Ownership Vote

Add the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council to the groups and individuals pushing the FCC not to vote on its media ownership order before providing more opportunity for comment on its impact on minority ownership.

MMTC's proposal would push a vote until early next year at the earliest.

MMTC President David Honig said Thursday in a statement that he thought an extra 30 days would help. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said he wanted to vote the item by the end of the year.

"Several parties in this proceeding have encouraged the Commission to grant additional time to consider the impact of some of the Commission's proposals on minority ownership," he said. "I believe that thirty additional days for the parties to file comments on that issue and others would be beneficial; for example, a twenty-day lightning round of comments with ten days for reply comments."

According to multiple sources, the chairman has proposed, and likely has the votes to pass, an order that would loosen the newspaper/TV station crossownership ban along the lines of an effort by his Republican predecessor, Kevin Martin; remove restrictions on newspaper/radio station crossownership, lift the ban on TV station/radio crossownership, and make some joint sales agreements subject to the local ownership caps.

The item has been circulated for a vote among the other commissioners, but has not been scheduled for a public meeting, which drew criticism Thursday from consolidation critic Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) .

A host of minority groups and media activist have called on the FCC not to vote until it completes and vets court-ordered diversity studies.

On the conference call with reporters, Wade Henderson, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, led some harsh criticisms of the commission, suggesting that it was allowing conglomerates to gobble up outlets and homogenize programming. He argued the FCC proposal would continue to keep licenses out of the hands of diverse owners.

But the FCC has said that it has taken diversity into account. "The Commission's draft media ownership order includes a comprehensive analysis of viewpoint diversity based on an extensive record developed over the last three years," an FCC official told B&C earlier this week, "including six public hearings held across the country; two rounds of public comment; and eleven economic studies that were competitively bid, subject to peer review, and publicly released. In addition, all of the 323 [ownership survey] report data has been fully considered by Commission staff, and much of the data was publicly available a year ago, with all of it publicly available for weeks now, enabling stakeholders to review and comment on it."

But Honig thinks the FCC's proposal could use more considering.

"Certainly, the opportunity to improve the record on the relationship between structural rules and minority ownership, on the definition of an eligible entity, on the many specific pending proposals aimed at advancing minority ownership, and on the research needed to ensure that decisions made in this area are well supported and wise would be desirable," Honig said.

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.