Free Press policy director Matt Wood took issue Monday with
FCC Media Bureau chief Bill Lake's defense of his chairman's media ownership
"[B]ased on what we do know, it is flat-out wrong to
suggest that the top four ranking exemption would prevent ownership of a top TV
station and a major newspaper in the same market," said
In a statement Monday (Dec. 3), Lake had said that suggestions the item would make it easier to own a top TV
station and a major newspaper were off base..
"Reports that the order would make it easier to own a top TV station and a major newspaper in a market are wrong," he said. "In fact, the order would strengthen the current rule by creating an express presumption against a waiver of the cross-ownership ban to allow such a combination."
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is proposing to loosen the
ban on newspaper/TV cross-ownership in the top 20 markets, but a combo among
the top four TV stations and a "major" newspaper would be presumed
not in the public interest. In addition, said Lake, "the proposed order
preserves the existing TV duopoly rule, which forbids ownership of more than
one of the top four TV stations in any market."
Wood said the FCC may be trying to put a damper on News
Corp. buying the L.A. Times or Chicago Tribune, but even that
"misses the mark," he said, since the Fox stations in L.A. and
Chicago often are not in the top four in their markets due to the strength of
the Univision stations there. "So, [News Corp. chairman] Rupert Murdoch
could still target those flagship newspapers thanks to the rule change this chairman
is proposing," he said.
"As for claims that the proposal is stronger than the
current rule," said Wood, "what we have currently is a ban on
newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership. We believe the Genachowski proposal for
the top 20 markets is the same as the Kevin Martin proposal, which was thrown
out by the court and rejected by Congress. All that the new proposal
strengthens is the likelihood for increased media consolidation."
The chairman is going to provide an extra 30 days for
comment on a recently released state of ownership report, which means there
will almost certainly be no vote on the media ownership changes until sometime
after the first of the year.
None of the commissioners have voted the item, including the
chairman, somewhat unusual for his own item. According to various sources, it
is unlikely the other commissioners would vote the item before it had the
endorsement of the chairman who offered it, although commissioner Jessica
Rosenworcel is currently the only vote on an unrelated item -- on Dish
satellite spectrum -- that the chairman circulated but has also not yet voted.