Washington

Waters to FCC: Don't Wade Into Ownership Just Yet

Congresswoman says proposed item could decrease diversity, has been insufficiently vetted 12/20/2012 02:53:56 PM Eastern

The FCC continues to solicit comment from the
public on media ownership and diversity, and Rep. Maxine Waters had a piece of
her mind to give to the chairman.

In
a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski dated Wednesday, she said she was
concerned with reports that the commission intended to "revive some form
of the same lax media cross ownership rules that the Third Circuit Court
invalidated in July 2011."

In
fact those reports are about a year old, ever since the chairman in fall 2011
signaled he was taking a similar approach to the loosening the
newspaper-broadcast crossownership ban proposed by then Chairman Kevin Martin,
the approach Waters was referring to.

In
fact the court did not take issue with the proposal so much as with how it was
proposed -- without sufficient vetting by the public -- and with how it and
separate diversity initiatives were (or more specifically, were not) justified
by the commission.

Waters
is a long-time consolidation critic and continued in that vein in her letter,
opining that only a few companies own the major broadcast nets and the vast
majority of the top 50 cable nets

She
says the FCC should not proceed with a vote on the ownership proposal until it
has analyzed the findings of a recent ownership report (the so-called 323
report) that found little improvement in minority or female station ownership
and the impact on that diversity landscape of even more deregulatory changes.

In
that she joins a chorus of minority advocates who have called for diversity
impact studies before a vote.

The
chairman had wanted to vote the item by the end of the year, but has postponed
it until at least early January after agreeing to 30 more days worth of comment
on the 323 report.

FCC
Watchers are growing increasingly pessimistic about the chances for a January
vote, and even broadcasters don't seem to be pushing that hard given that they
see the changes as too few and are not happy with an additional change that
would make some joint sales agreements attributable as ownership under local
ownership caps.

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