MMTC's Honig: Time to Loosen Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership

While he suggested last week FCC could seek more input, he says absolute ban is no longer in public interest
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Minority Media and Telecommunications Council president
David Honig last
week joined the groups
asking the FCC to solicit more comment on the impact
of its proposed media ownership rule changes on minorities, but he made it clear
on Monday he favors relaxing the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership regs.

In
a blog posting,
he said that MMTC, after decades of supporting the ban, had
concluded an absolute ban was no longer in the public interest.

"We must ensure that journalism -- particularly at the
local level -- does not continue to deteriorate. Relaxing the cross-ownership
ban would provide newspapers with immediate relief," he wrote. "Cross-owned
newspapers and television stations pool resources and collaborate on
investigative projects.  FCC-commissioned studies have concluded that
television stations that are cross-owned with newspapers provide more public
affairs programs and local news than other stations."

MMTC applauds the FCC's original goal in imposing the ban in
1975 -- increasing diversity of ownership, but it says that, speaking from
experience, the ban doesn't do that.

"[I]n the thousands of pages of FCC-commissioned
studies about media ownership, there is no evidence that retaining the absolute
ban on cross-ownership would impact minority ownership of broadcast stations.
Indeed, as the operator of the nation's only minority-owned media brokerage
since 1997, the MMTC has never seen a deal fail to close because of
cross-ownership."

The chairman's proposal would loosen the ban on newspaper/TV
cross-ownership, lift limits on newspaper/radio and TV/radio cross-ownership,
but count some joint sales agreements toward local ownership caps. The proposal
would presume mergers of TV stations and newspapers were in the public
interest, unless between one of the top four stations and a "major"
newspaper.

"MMTC and others have placed before the FCC dozens of
proposals that would address the real causes of minority exclusion from media
ownership:  weak access to capital, discrimination in advertising and
employment, and inferior technical facilities," Honig said, "[b]ut
the Commission should not retain outdated regulations that discourage
much-needed investments in local journalism."

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