FCC to Take Up Media Ownership at April Meeting

Video competition and national broadband on agenda

WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission will take a crack at promoting minority media ownership at its regular monthly meeting scheduled for April 8 at 10 a.m.

The meeting agenda, released yesterday, includes an item on minority ownership in broadcasting, vis-à-vis the 2006 quadrennial review of media ownership rules. Specifically, the commission will consider a Report and Order and Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making on improving data collection regarding minority and female ownership in the broadcast industry.

The commission will also consider a Notice of Inquiry to gather information on the next annual report to Congress on the status of video competition. Another notice seeking feedback on a national broadband plan will also be discussed among the three sitting commissioners--Robert McDowell, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, who’s serving as interim chairman while the president’s nominee, Julius Genachowski, gets vetted by the Senate.

Diversity in media ownership is a pet cause of Democrats Copps and Adelstein. Copps has long railed against the consolidation set into motion by former Chairman Michael Powell, during whose tenure media ownership rules were substantially loosened. The trend continued under the most recent former chairman, Kevin Martin, who relaxed restrictions on owning newspaper and broadcast properties in the same market.

Copps immediately called for agency reform when he took over two months ago, but he’s since noted that a complete overhaul is unlikely in the current economic climate. The Copps team posted an update on the effort on Facebook in mid-March.

“An across-the-board restructuring of the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t appear to be in the cards,” it states. “While the digital age suggests an opportunity for a broad rethinking of media regulation, the economic crisis has narrowed policymakers’ focus. And the FCC will have its hands full over the next year with seeing the DTV transition through to the end and crafting a National Broadband Strategy.” -- Deborah D. McAdams