Previously 'unthinkable' media combinations might allow broadcast licensees
to capture operating efficiencies that translate to higher-quality programming,
Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau chief Ken Ferree told
communications lawyers Sunday.
'If stations are not able to realize cost savings through operational
efficiencies, they may turn to other measures to remain afloat, such as
decreasing the amount of locally produced news and information programming or
reducing programming expenditures in general,' he said in a speech to the
American Bar Association Communications Forum, which held its annual meeting in
conjunction with the National Association of Broadcasters' NAB 2002 in Las
Ferree avoided specifics, but the FCC is in various stages of reviewing
policies on broadcaster cross-ownership of local newspapers and cable systems
and limits on TV duopolies and national TV-household reach.
He made it clear, however, that the commission won't step to judge whether
broadcaster quality is improving.
'I am deliberately avoiding the normative question of what `higher quality'
means,'' he said. 'For my purposes, it is whatever produces the maximum consumer
welfare as measured by traditional market mechanisms, even if that is
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