FCC May Issue Tougher Standards


The FCC has signaled it could impose much tougher license-renewal standards for stations, including triggering a commission-level vote on renewal for stations that don’t provide enough local programming.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told senators at a Commerce Committee oversight hearing Thursday that he is ready to vote on proposed localism and diversity initiatives that, combined with his proposal to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban, would end the FCC’s review of media ownership rules.

First Amendment think tank The Media Institute, backed by major media companies including News Corp., NBC Universal, Viacom and Time Warner, sent Martin a letter Friday, The letter said it was “deeply concerned” about provisions, including the license renewal proposals, which it says are “antithetical” to First Amendment protections.

Despite harsh criticism from the Senate Commerce Committee, Martin said last week he planned to hold the Dec. 18 vote. But he said he was willing to toughen the waiver policy in his cross-ownership proposal essentially to whatever standard would convince commission Democrats that it was meant to be a hurdle, not a loophole.