MMTC's Honig: Time to Loosen Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership
While he suggested last week FCC could seek more input, he says absolute ban is no longer in public interest
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/3/2012 4:57:36 PMast week joined the groups asking the FCC to solicit more comment on the impact of its proposed media ownership rule changes on minorities, but he made it clear on Monday he favors relaxing the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership regs.
In a blog posting, he said that MMTC, after decades of supporting the ban, had concluded an absolute ban was no longer in the public interest.
"We must ensure that journalism -- particularly at the local level -- does not continue to deteriorate. Relaxing the cross-ownership ban would provide newspapers with immediate relief," he wrote. "Cross-owned newspapers and television stations pool resources and collaborate on investigative projects. FCC-commissioned studies have concluded that television stations that are cross-owned with newspapers provide more public affairs programs and local news than other stations."
MMTC applauds the FCC's original goal in imposing the ban in 1975 -- increasing diversity of ownership, but it says that, speaking from experience, the ban doesn't do that.
"[I]n the thousands of pages of FCC-commissioned studies about media ownership, there is no evidence that retaining the absolute ban on cross-ownership would impact minority ownership of broadcast stations. Indeed, as the operator of the nation's only minority-owned media brokerage since 1997, the MMTC has never seen a deal fail to close because of cross-ownership."
The chairman's proposal would loosen the ban on newspaper/TV cross-ownership, lift limits on newspaper/radio and TV/radio cross-ownership, but count some joint sales agreements toward local ownership caps. The proposal would presume mergers of TV stations and newspapers were in the public interest, unless between one of the top four stations and a "major" newspaper.
"MMTC and others have placed before the FCC dozens of proposals that would address the real causes of minority exclusion from media ownership: weak access to capital, discrimination in advertising and employment, and inferior technical facilities," Honig said, "[b]ut the Commission should not retain outdated regulations that discourage much-needed investments in local journalism."
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