Cross-Owned Stations Do Less News, Activists Claim

Free Press, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America File Federal Communications Commission Comments

The same groups that hammered the Federal Communications Commission over its 10 ownership studies took out the big guns in comments to the FCC Thursday, including arguing that the FCC's own data show that removing the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban would actually decrease news in local markets.

In comments to the FCC responding to the broadcasting-industry support for the studies, which mostly supported deregulation, Free Press, Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America minced no words.

The big media corporations have fallen victim to the FCC’s research scam," they said. "Because they heard an answer they liked, rather than scrutinize the FCC analysis, they have simply regurgitated the results of the FCC … Our complete refutation of the FCC analysis stands unscathed. Indeed, the big media companies have failed to notice that for the first time in 30 years, the ban on newspaper-TV cross-ownership stands on a rock-solid foundation of scientific analysis."

Among a host of criticisms, the groups alleged that stations that have been cross-owned for "a long period of time" -- which are the ones the FCC initially grandfathered from the cross-ownership ban -- are guilty of biased reporting, saying that the FCC's own data suggest that such markets have fewer news voices, less news and what news they had slanted toward Republicans.

Free Press raised the issue of the decrease in news in cross-owned markets during the FCC's localism hearing Oct. 31, looking to answer broadcaster claims that the ban harmed localism.

And refuting broadcaster arguments that alternative media have already diversified the marketplace, the groups countered that the mass media retain a dominant position, citing one study that found that 89% of respondents said traditional media are their “first and second most important sources of local news."

"The FCC’s research agenda was thoroughly biased, its implementation of the studies was clandestine and the peer-review process was not transparent," they concluded, saying that the FCC needed to get its facts straight and keep media-ownership regulations in place.