It has been more than a dozen years since the FCC, under then-chairman Michael Powell, tried to loosen media ownership rules, including scrapping the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership regulations. It is time for them to go.
If there was any doubt back in 2003 about the availability of news and entertainment alternatives, there should be none now. The FCC has all but said that wireless broadband is the future of video, and newspapers are trying to figure out how to remain relevant and in business.
Against that backdrop, and with an opportunity to take at least that one step (a move backed by former Democratic and Republican FCC chairs), the commission last July voted again to keep the prohibition in place. Yes, they added a sort of “failing newspaper” waiver, which is like closing the barn door after the horse has been worked to exhaustion, clubbed on the head and dragged to the glue factory.
Broadcasters and newspaper owners have asked the courts for help. But the remade FCC and Justice Department under President-elect Trump could help, too. While the Tom Wheeler-led FCC would almost certainly have put up a strong defense in the court case, the new FCC and DOJ should not.
Broadcasters want more, of course, including loosening TV station joint sales agreement restrictions and local ownership rules. Whatever happens with those, there is no reason to keep newspapers and broadcast outlets from being able to combine resources to stay relevant and provide the local news and information that is still a vital resource.