FCC Democrats Diss Martin Plan, Say Tribune Is Being Held Hostage

Adelstein, Copps Say FCC Chairman Using Tribune Buyout as ‘Human Shield’ 11/13/2007 09:15:00 AM Eastern

If Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin was looking to assuage commission Democrats with what he characterized as a moderate change in ownership rules, he didn't.

Jonathan Adelstein

The proposal was a "wolf in sheep's clothing," said commission Democrats Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps -- the latter of whom Martin even gave a shout-out to in a New York Times op-ed announcing the his proposal, which is to lift the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban for stations below the top-four-rated in the top 20 markets, with a waiver possible for smaller markets .

In a joint statement, the pair said the proposal "could propel a frenzy of competition-stifling mergers across the land," adding that the possibility of waivers in smaller markets was a loophole that "big media will drive a truck through."

"We have seen how loosely the commission has granted waivers in the past,” they wrote. “If this proposal goes through, the FCC could grant cross-ownership applications in such small towns as Meridian, Miss., and Bend, Ore. When big conglomerates can’t get their way in a general rule, they press for loopholes that swallow the rule, and they would succeed with this approach.”

Michael Copps

Adelstein and Copps said the 19 days for public comment on the Martin proposal is "grossly insufficient" and that number should be 90 days, as per a bill being backed by some senators to derail Martin's planned vote by mid-December on the change, which almost certainly has the backing of the other two Republican commissioners.

The Democrats said the chairman was using the proposed Tribune buyout as a "human shield." The chairman said Tuesday that the commission would likely grant temporary waivers with an expectation of a media-ownership vote Dec. 18, but without that, it was not likely.

"We are prepared to vote on the Tribune waiver requests within three working days after the chairman circulates a draft decision," Adelstein and Copps said, adding that it was unfair for the commission to hold the Tribune deal hostage.