Commission releases cross-ownership order

The Federal Communications Commission published its Report and Order Feb. 4 relaxing decades-old restrictions on cross-ownership of broadcast outlets and daily newspapers in the same community.

In December, the commission voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the measure which fundamentally changes the viewpoint of the agency regarding cross-ownership to one in which such deals are viewed as being in the public interest under certain circumstances.

The order seeks to balance the desire to maintain the sustainability of local news sources without increasing media concentration and limiting diverse voices in the marketplace. The vote has set off a wave of objection, including a call from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) to rescind the rule change and the launch of a Congressional investigation into the procedures used by the commission to make rules.

Accompanying the public release of the order Monday was a joint statement from FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who cast votes against the rule change in December.

In their statement, the commissioners said the order that was released did little to close loopholes that would “permit any broadcast station to merge with any newspaper in virtually any market in the country.” As described at the time of its adoption, the rule change would presumptively permit cross ownership only in the largest media markets. However, the pair pointed out that the commission also granted five permanent waivers to the cross-ownership rules involving media outlets that don’t qualify for the public interest presumption.

The most troubling part of how the majority analyzed the cross-ownership matter was “the absence of any discussion of the ‘twin principles’ of diversity and competition underlying the cross-ownership ban,” the joint statement said.

To read the order, visit: