Prometheus Radio Project Against Martin’s Cross-Ownership Loosening

Group Says FCC Chairman’s Plan Would Make Minority-Owned TV Stations Acquisition Targets

Prometheus Radio Project, which filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission's 2003 attempt to deregulate, isn't happy with FCC chairman Kevin Martin's proposal to limit further deregulation to loosening the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban, either.

In a filing to the FCC Tuesday -- the date by which Martin wanted to receive comments on his proposal -- Prometheus said the "very viability" of the newspaper business was not at stake, as the chairman and other supporters of loosening the ban had argued.

It also argued that newspapers and stations can get the benefits of sharing resources without taking the next step of common ownership, adding that the chairman's proposal contains a liberal waiver policy that would potentially allow any newspaper and station to be jointly owned. "This standard is no standard at all," Prometheus said.

The group also said the proposal would hurt minorities. Martin is proposing allowing newspaper-broadcast combinations in the top 20 markets, but only stations rated below the top four.

"Nearly one-half of the TV stations owned by people of color are in the top 20 markets, and not one of them is in the top four of their markets," it said. "Thus, almost every one of those stations will be in the cross hairs as potential acquisition targets. The dearth of minority ownership will be even worse if the FCC ultimately votes to go further than the chairman’s current plan."

Finally, Prometheus took issue with Martin's release of the proposal via an op-ed in The New York Times, saying that it was responding to an "informal suggestion" by a single commissioner rather than a valid request for comment. "Prometheus does not acknowledge that the chairman’s press release constitutes a valid request for comments within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act," it said.

Martin wants to vote on the proposal by Dec. 18, as well as a raft of proposals that he said would aid minority owners. He called the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership proposal "conservative" and pointed out that he is not pushing for any more loosening of radio and TV ownership rules, as the 2003 rule revise did.

Martin has also said loosening the ban would essentially write "fin" to the rule review after 18 months, 10 studies and localism and media-ownership public hearings across the country.

Hill Democrats, and those on the FCC, are not assuaged, arguing that the commission needs to finish separate inquiries into the impact of consolidation on diversity and localism, with some arguing that any additional consolidation is too much and that, in any event, nothing should be decided until those separate inquiries are completed.