Consumer Groups Push Back on Martin Cross-Ownership Plan

Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Free Press Gang Up on FCC Chairman
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Looking to try to head off Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin's plan to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and Free Press were pushing their market-level analysis that they said shows that cross-ownership leads to less and more slanted news.

In a filing with the commission Wednesday, the three groups argued that their studies show that:

• Cross-ownership crowds out the competition. The presence of a cross-owned station leads the other stations in the market to collectively curtail their news output by about 25%;

• Cross-owned stations -- and markets with cross-owned stations -- don't produce more local news; and

• Cross-owned stations produce slanted news in line with the editorial position of the co-owned newspaper.

They argued that Martin's plan to lift the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership in the top 20 markets, and only for stations not among the top-four rated, was a gutting of the rules, particularly given what they saw as a more liberal waiver policy for stations below that threshold.

Martin described it as a moderate approach and one prompted by a changing media marketplace and struggling newspapers.