FCC Chairman Kevin Martin took his call for revising the newspaper/TV station crossownership ban to the Newspaper Association of America Convention in Chicago Tuesday.
Martin pointed out that three chairmen, including two Democrats, had tried to revise the rules, so far without success. The FCC actually went so far as to scrap the ban in 2003 under then chairman Michael Powell, but that was part of the deregulatory rule rewrite that a federal court overturned for failure to sufficiently explain the changes.
Saying the continued ban could have an adverse affect on news and localism for struggling papers, Martin appeared to be encouraging those newspapers to spread the word that the ban needs to be changed.
"As the Commission embarks on another review of its media ownership rules," he told the convention crowd, "our challenge is to ensure that these rules take into account the competitive realities facing newspapers and broadcasters while ensuring that localism and diversity are promoted. The public needs to understand both the value that your papers offer and the struggles you face in continuing to provide news in an increasingly competitive media marketplace.
"Indeed, the failure of the Commission to modify our rules is not our fault alone. The public has not been convinced of the need for change."
Martin gave no signal of when it would start work on justifying/tweaking its rules to please the court. He tried to launch the review last September, but without a political majority (the FCC is currently two Democrats, two Rebublicans), he could not get consensus on how much to spend on new studies and how many hearings on localism to hold.
The review is expected to begin once Martin gets his third Republican vote. Robert McDowell, formerly of Comptel, has been nominated, but at least one Senator has put a hold on his nomination, which effectively puts a hold on launching the media ownership review.