Add former Democratic FCC commissioner and media consolidation
critic Michael Copps to those criticizing Democratic FCC chairman Julius
Genachowski for his media ownership proposal.
That is not a big surprise since Copps voted against a similar
proposal offered up by then-FCC chairman Kevin Martin -- a Republican -- in
Copps, currently heading up Common Cause's Media and
Democracy Reform Initiative, blogged
Monday that he was shocked the Genachowski proposal was even more
deregulatory than Martin's.
In addition to loosening newspaper/TV cross-ownership, the
current proposed media ownership changes include lifting limits on newspaper/radio
and TV/radio cross-ownership, although it also would make some joint sales
agreements subject to local ownership limits that are not being loosened.
"Instead of hurrying in the wrong direction, wouldn't
the Commission's time be better utilized by considering (and actually voting
on) some of the dozens of recommendations that have been put before it by civil
rights and public interest groups to establish programs and incentives to
encourage minority and female ownership?" he said. "It is time for
the FCC to take a deep breath, change direction, and get on with the huge
challenge of encouraging a diverse media environment that serves all of our
citizens and that nourishes a thriving civic dialogue."
Copps pointed out that then-Senator Barack Obama back in
2006 and 2007 objected to the Martin moves without first gauging their impact
on minorities and small businesses. That is the same
criticism now being leveled at Genachowski, the president's pick for
"The pending proposal does all this without coming
close to meeting the demands of the Third Circuit federal court that refused to
accept the 2007 rules (and a prior 2003 attempt to loosen the ownership rules,
too) largely because those rules failed to deal with the lack of minority
ownership," said Copps. "What has changed in the interim, other than
the statistics of minority ownership getting even worse? Does the Commission really
need the court to tell it 'no' yet another time? That would be three -- a
strike-out where I come from. Let's be clear here: the proposal currently
before the Commission would make it decidedly more difficult for minorities and
women to have their own stations."
In response to rising criticism from Hill Democrats and
others, an FCC spokesman reiterated last week that newspaper/radio and TV/radio
limits were no longer needed, and that the item did address diversity.
"FCC chairman Genachowski [has] shared a proposal with
his colleagues to streamline and modernize media ownership rules, including
eliminating outdated prohibitions on newspaper-radio and TV-radio cross
ownership. As the Commission recognized last year, while the media
marketplace is in transition, broadband and new media are not yet available as
ubiquitously as traditional broadcast media, and certain protections therefore
remain important to promoting competition, diversity, and localism," the
spokesman said in a statement. "The proposal promotes media diversity by
retaining some of the consolidation limits, and through a number of measures
that provide broadcast opportunities for small businesses."
The chairman circulated the item last month, but has not
voted it yet himself, nor have the other commissioners. He is currently in
Dubai for an international telecom conference and is not likely to vote it
until next week at the earliest.
On Monday, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said also defended the item from critics.
"Reports that the order would make it easier to own a top TV station and a major newspaper in a market are wrong," said Lake. "In fact, the order would strengthen the current rule by creating an express presumption against a waiver of the cross-ownership ban to allow such a combination. In addition, the proposed order preserves the existing TV duopoly rule, which forbids ownership of more than one of the top four TV stations in any market."