McDowell: Broadcasters Weighted Down With Legacy Regs - Broadcasting & Cable

McDowell: Broadcasters Weighted Down With Legacy Regs

Says newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban needs radical reform, at least
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FCC commissioner Robert McDowell said Thursday that so long
as broadcasters are weighed down by the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban
and other legacy 20th century regs, investment will flow primarily to less
regulated new media.

That came in a speech Thursday to the National Association
of Black Owned Broadcasters fall conference in Washington, according to a copy
of the text.

McDowell was there to receive an award from NABOB for his
support of broadcast diversity initiatives, notably his backing for an end to
the no urban/Hispanic ad dictates, something NABOB had pushed for decades
before the FCC finally followed through in 2007 as part of its 13-item
Diversity Order.

McDowell told his audience that it was time to "largely
-- if not completely -- eliminate the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban."
While he has argued that an increasingly competitive marketplace suggests the
presumption should be that the rule go away. He also pointed out to B&C in an interview in advance of
the speech that the record is still open -- the FCC has not completed studies
on the impact of its rules on diversity. "It might be possible to have a
presumption that the rules should go away, but if someone wants to file
evidence that would harm a diversity of voices in a market, we would consider
it."

McDowell said that he was happy to consider all options, but
his "hypothesis" is that the presumption should be flipped.
"Right now, there is a presumption that combinations create scenarios that
undermine the public interest. I think the market has moved well beyond that.
It certainly needs radical reform."

He made that crystal clear in his speech. "Established
in 1975, [the ban] is as out of date as the disco music and polyester leisure
suits of its birth year. A growing body of evidence indicates that this
obsolete rule actually may be exacerbating the demise of diverse local voices
that provide important news and information. In other words, the ban is
producing the opposite result of its intended effect."

McDowell put in his Groundhog Day-like call -- one he has
repeated often over the years -- for Congress
to give tax breaks
to companies who sell media properties to small and
disadvantaged businesses.

Given the absence of those study results, which then must be
put out for comment, Broadcasters likely won't get any answer on the
newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban or other possible media ownership rule
revisions this year.

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