Newspaper Ownership, Unions Divided Over Cross-ownership Ban

The newspaper unions and ownership are definitely of different minds on lifting the ban on newspaper-broadcast crossownership.

That is according to testimony for a June 11 House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the FCC's media ownership rules.

While Newspaper Association of America (NAA) SVP Paul Boyle tells the subcommittee that the ban is outdated and hurts investment in local journalism, Bernard Lunzer, president of the NewsGuild-CWA, asks Congress to "maintain the status quo on Cross Ownership between print and broadcast" and says that claims that combinations will allow for more coverage is "just not the case.

Boyle says the crossownership ban deprives local journalist of a needed source of new capital at a time of "massive shift" in the print business model. "Newspapers are constantly innovating to develop new ways to fund newsgathering," he says, and "the cross-ownership ban prevents the owner of a local broadcaster, who has an investment in the community and shares a similar value in journalism, from owning a newspaper."

Lunzer says that the "efficiencies" of crossownership instead flow to the bottom line in the form of increased profits rather than investments.

"We do not believe further consolidation will help," said Lunzer. "The goal right now should not be to save call letters, mastheads or websites if they only duplicate information distributed elsewhere. Joint sales agreements, shared services agreements and more crossownership would likely result in fewer employees, less news coverage and less diversity in both areas," he says. "It also will not stimulate diversity ownership."

John Eggerton

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.