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Unions slam FCC studies

Some powerful media unions weighed in Wednesday on the broadcast-ownership
studies commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission, calling them
flawed, incomplete and misleading.

Although the 12 studies generally seemed to support deregulation, a union
analysis filed with the FCC and pitched to reporters in Washington, D.C., called
that assessment superficial.

Looking at the same studies, their reading was that they raised "serious
questions about the impact of concentration on diversity in news and

While the unions conceded that various factors, including the availability of
increasing alternative media, make it reasonable to question whether current
restrictions are still in the public interest, they said the conclusions in many
of the FCC studies are more ambiguous than their executive summaries suggested
and, "In some cases, the evidence can be used to show the opposite of what is
suggested by the summaries."

Their conclusion is that several of the studies contain "serious design
flaws." Where they are not flawed, the analysis concluded, they are incomplete
because none examines how "commercial interests of the media outlets or their
advertisers may affect the content of their news and entertainment." And when
they are not wanting in either of those categories, the unions said, the studies
provide "considerable basis for concern."

The analysis was penned by Dean Baker, co-director of the Washington,
D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, a self-described progressive
think tank funded by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, among others. The
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, The Newspaper Guild,
Communications Workers of America and the Writers Guild of America (East) in concert
with the AFL-CIO, commissioned the analysis and presented it to the FCC and the
press last week.

The FCC plans to use its studies, released in September, to help draft
changes to a laundry list of media-ownership rules, including
newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership, radio- and TV-ownership caps and multiple

The FCC studies are part of a congressionally mandated biennial regulatory review,
given additional impetus by court decisions asking the FCC to clarify some of
the rules or jettison them.