MMTC: FCC Should Seek More Comment Before Ownership Vote

Suggests "lightning round" of 20 days for comment, 10 days for replies.
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Add the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council to the
groups and individuals pushing the FCC not to vote on its media ownership order
before providing more opportunity for comment on its impact on minority
ownership.

MMTC's proposal would push a vote until early next year at
the earliest.

MMTC president David Honig said Thursday in a statement that
he thought an extra 30 days would help. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has
said he wanted to vote the item by the end of the year.

"Several parties in this proceeding have encouraged the
Commission to grant additional time to consider the impact of some of the
Commission's proposals on minority ownership," he said. "I believe
that thirty additional days for the parties to file comments on that issue and
others would be beneficial; for example, a twenty-day lightning round of
comments with ten days for reply comments."

According to multiple sources, the chairman has proposed,
and likely has the votes to pass, an order that would loosen the newspaper/TV station
cross-ownership ban along the lines of an effort by his Republican predecessor,
Kevin Martin; remove restrictions on newspaper/radio station cross-ownership,
lift the ban on TV station/radio cross-ownership, and make some joint sales
agreements subject to the local ownership caps.

The item has been circulated for a vote among the other
commissioners, but has not been scheduled for a public meeting, which drew
criticism Thursday from consolidation critic Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)


A host of minority groups and media activists have
called on the FCC not to vote until it completes and vets court-ordered
diversity studies.


On a conference call with reporters, Wade Henderson,
president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, led
some harsh criticisms of the commission, suggesting that it was allowing
conglomerates to gobble up outlets and homogenize programming. He argued the
FCC proposal would continue to keep licenses out of the hands of diverse
owners.

But the FCC has said that it has taken diversity into
account. "The Commission's draft media ownership order includes a
comprehensive analysis of viewpoint diversity based on an extensive record
developed over the last three years," an FCC official told B&C earlier this week,
"including six public hearings held across the country; two rounds of
public comment; and eleven economic studies that were competitively bid,
subject to peer review, and publicly released. In addition, all of the 323
[ownership survey] report data has been fully considered by Commission staff,
and much of the data was publicly available a year ago, with all of it publicly
available for weeks now, enabling stakeholders to review and comment on
it."

But Honig thinks the FCC's proposal could use more
considering.

"Certainly, the opportunity to improve the record on
the relationship between structural rules and minority ownership, on the
definition of an eligible entity, on the many specific pending proposals aimed
at advancing minority ownership, and on the research needed to ensure that
decisions made in this area are well supported and wise would be
desirable," Honig said.

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