MAP Threatens to Take Cross-Ownership Decision to Court

12/18/2007 08:10:00 AM Eastern

The Federal Communications Commission had hardly voted to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules Tuesday when the group that sued to block deregulatory rule changes back in 2003 said it would have to take the new rule change to court, too, unless Congress blocked it first.

Andrew J. Schwartzman

“Today’s action is far more radical, and much more outrageous, than what chairman [Kevin] Martin proposed just a few weeks ago," said Andrew J. Schwartzman, president of Media Access Project, which represented Prometheus Radio Project in the 2003 challenge to an FCC rule revise they thought was too deregulatory.

Although Tuesday's change was billed by the FCC as more modest, and it did not include loosening local-radio and TV-ownership caps or allowing Big Four networks to merge, the group was not assuaged. "We are not mollified by the fact that the changes are not as extreme as what the FCC attempted to do in 2003 or by the FCC’s long-overdue initiative to make broadcasters more responsive to their communities," Schwartzman said. None of those concessions make up for the loss of diversity that would be caused by the changes adopted today."

He added, "[Martin] caved in to lobbying from the media giants, giving a pass to them so that they can retain TV and radio stations they were supposed to have divested months and years ago. And he is even giving Rupert Murdoch a new crack at keeping two huge TV stations in New York despite his acquisition of The Wall Street Journal."

Schwartzman said that unless an effort in the Senate to nullify the vote is successful, "we’re going to have to go back to court to make sure the public isn’t harmed by this ill-advised action.”

The FCC's action on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership was, in part, an answer to the Philadelphia Federal Appeals Court that stayed and remanded the rules back for changes in deciding the Prometheus suit.