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NAB Praises Ownership Move, Will Monitor Localism Proposals

The National Association of Broadcasters praised the Federal Communications Commission's loosening of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules Tuesday, but said it would have to scrutinize an item on broadcast localism it has some problems with.

"We are pleased that the FCC adopted a revised newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule, recognizing that a 30-year-old complete ban is no longer justified," NAB executive vice president of communications Dennis Wharton said.

"While we think the adopted changes are modest, we believe they are an important step forward in aligning broadcasting regulations with the realities of today's communications marketplace," he added.

Broadcasters would have preferred that the ban be lifted entirely, but FCC chairman Kevin Martin said Tuesday that he had gotten the message from public hearings on consolidation and wasn't going there.

"We will also be reviewing closely the FCC's 'localism' proposal,'" Wharton said, "a proceeding that carries grave First Amendment implications and that stems from a false notion that radio and television stations have abandoned our commitment to serving communities or have stopped offering distinctive local programming."

He added, "From coast to coast, local broadcasters are saving lives every day with Amber Alerts, emergency weather warnings and coverage of natural disasters. The record shows that broadcasters have an unmatched tradition of serving the public interest and, as the FCC found in the 1980s, onerous regulations can have the unintended consequence of reducing programming quality."

Wharton conclued, "We are confident that any truly objective localism analysis will vindicate the performance of radio and TV broadcasters and overshadow the shrill voices of those who would regulate broadcasters back to the 1960s."