The FCC is expected by next week to put out a request for proposals (RFP) for media ownership studies, according to an FCC source familiar with the RFP. At the same time it will issue a public notice so folks can comment on the
kind of studies and data that would best inform the process.
The commission will need to get that study process rolling pretty quickly, since it is expected to outline what information it is looking for and also solicit comment from the public on that and what else it might want to study. Then it will have to approve the contracts, get the studies done and peer-reviewed, and take them into account in a quadrennial review of its media ownership rules that the FCC has indicated it wants to finish by the end of the year. That time frame is looking increasingly unlikely, said an aide to one of the commissioners.
The idea is to select among the bids within a month of issuing the RFP, said the source, which would make it
mid-July: "It will be pretty wham-bam!"
Specifically, the FCC is looking at five rules: the local TV ownership rule, the local radio ownership rule, the
newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule, the radio/TV cross-ownership rule, and the dual-network rule. It issued a notice of inquiry (NOI) May 25 launching the review process, including an open call for study proposals.
Studies for recent reviews under former chairmen came under fire from congressional and commission Democrats
Michael Copps and former commissioner Jonathan Adelstein for being used to support already-drawn conclusions,
and for how the winning bidders were chosen. The source said this time around the commission is "leaning toward" a committee of four or five members who would go through the top bids. And there will be a peer review of the studies.
One of the FCC's mantras under Chairman Julius Genachowski has been collecting good data before deciding how to proceed on an issue.
Congress charged the commission with reviewing its rules periodically to determine if any were "necessary in the
public interest" -- five words that have been interpreted by some to mean the FCC charter was only to get rid of
rules that were no longer necessary, and by others to mean it is supposed to tighten or add regulations if it
determines they are in the public interest (the language also talks about modifying rules).
The NOI said the commission will take a "close look" at the impact of consolidation on the marketplace, and the
impact on online content, but also promised it was going in with "no preconceived notions" about what that close
look would reveal.