FCC to review media ownership

The FCC, now with a Republican majority, ignited some pre-holiday controversy last week when it announced that the commission would conduct 10 new economic studies on competition in television, radio, newspapers and the Internet.

The FCC’s two Democrat members quickly raised questions about who would do the studies and under what criteria. Both told reporters they weren’t fully consulted on the studies and suggested the majority made the announcement on the eve of Thanksgiving to deflect public attention.

“Today’s announcement of the commission’s new media ownership studies, unfortunately, raises more questions in the public’s mind than it answers,” said Michael Copps, a Democrat commissioner and advocate for tighter control of corporate media ownership.

Copps’ Democrat colleague, Jonathan Adelstein, said the study descriptions lacked details about methodology and data sources. The “unilateral” release on Thanksgiving eve, he added, “undermines the public’s confidence.”

The Republican majority, led by chairman Kevin Martin, said it would conduct 10 peer-reviewed studies to help analyze various aspects of media ownership. The studies are expected to cost about $200,000.

The FCC’s Media Bureau said staff, academic consultants and Nielsen Media Research, on the subject of TV news, would conduct studies.

The FCC conducted a similar series of studies in 2002, under Chairman Michael Powell. A year later, the Republican majority tried to ease media ownership restrictions, but a federal appeals court blocked the move saying the commission failed to justify the limits it set.

Last summer, Martin — Powell’s successor — began a new review, including the 1975 ban on a company owning a newspaper and a radio or TV station that serve the same market.