Officials Ordered FCC Report Destroyed, Says Ex-Staffer

Adam Candeub, a former lawyer with the FCC's Media Bureau, is alleging that senior FCC officials ordered all copies of a localism report drafted by the FCC in 2004 to be destroyed. Candeub is now a professor at Michigan State University.

Candeub was a staff level attorney with the media bureau. He tells B&C he was reviewing the study not as part of his job, but because he was friends with the authors. He also said he had co-authored authored scholarly works with the authors.

 He says the study  was "common bureau discussion" at the time. "Exactly who stopped it dead in its tracks, I don't know," said Candeub, but the word came down that "we have to get rid of this. We have to end the study. They don't want any more research done. They want us to collect copies and destroy them."  He said he did not know who "they" were.

If Candeub is right, not all the copies were successfully destroyed. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) produced a copy of the report at Martin's renomination hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee this week. She said it had been sent to her anonymously. She asked who suppressed the report and Martin responded that he had never seen it, knew nothing about it, and had not been chairman when it was produced. The FCC is currently preparing an official response to Boxer's inquiry.

The study in question concluded that locally owned TV stations do more local news than network-owned or "non-locally owned" stations do, a finding that was at odds with an earlier FCC conclusion. The FCC, under former chairman Michael Powell, opened a proceeding on localism in 2003. To Boxer's unhappiness, they have yet to conclude those proceedings, and she has requested answers from the FCC on who knew about the study--and who did not.

Pointing to its own studies, the  FCC under Powell had dismissed similar allegations of a disparity in news coverage in 2003. This was at a time when the NAB and the networks were divided over raising the station ownership cap, the networks in favor of it while stations opposed.

In a 2003 response to NAB and NASA (the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance), the FCC concluded:

"The national cap is not necessary to encourage local stations to air local news and public affairs programming."

The record actually suggests that the national cap diminishes localism by restraining the most effective purveyors of local news from using their resources in additional markets.The studies before us show that network-owned stations air, on average, more local news and public affairs programming than affiliates overall."

The commission also said the studies showed that network news was of higher quality. The 2004 FCC working paper Boxer produced "suggested," instead that "locally owned television broadcast stations are more local news than network owned and operated and non-locally owned stations," a conclusion it said had "implications for broadcast ownership rules."

Martin told Boxer Thursday that he was investigating the disappearing report, but had concluded that it was relevant to both the localism and ownership proceedings and that he was making it part of the record in both.