Although News Corp.'s purchase of The Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones, does not run afoul of the FCC's ban on owning newspapers and TV stations in the same market, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wants to take a good hard look at the deal.
Even though News Corp. owns stations in New York City, where the paper is published, the Journal is considered a national daily, like USA Today, not a local paper that would trigger the ban. But the Democratic commissioner is concerned about the deal's implications for media consolidation.
"It's interesting to hear the 'experts' claim the transaction faces no regulatory hurdles," he said Wednesday in a statement. "Not so fast! This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices, and it specifically impacts the local market in New York City.
"What's good for shareholders of huge media conglomerates isn't always what's good for the public interest or our civic dialogue," he continued."We should immediately conduct a careful factual and legal analysis of the transaction to determine how it implicates specific FCC rules and our overarching statutory obligation to protect the public interest. I hope nobody views this as a slam-dunk."
The wording was telling. B&C ran a story in May entitled "Journal Bid a Slam Dunk?" (note the question mark). In that story, even veteran media critic Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, didn't see any issues at the FCC, citing the "national paper" status, nor did one top FCC official at the time, though he did not want to be cited in the story.
"It would be a stretch," said one veteran communications attorney.