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FCC’s Powell says newspapers will “fare well” under ownership changes

FCC Chairman Michael Powell told newspaper executives last week that they are “likely to fare well” under the FCC’s upcoming ownership rules changes.

Powell made the comment in response to an audience question following a speech to the Newspaper Association of America in Seattle. “I’m confident there’s going to be a very good result across the board on June 2,” Powell said, noting the date on which the ownership vote is scheduled to take place.

Powell argued that FCC research—considered highly suspect by his critics—shows that cross-owned media properties offer more news programming and win more news awards than independent news outlets. He also said that fierce competition for viewers and readers—not consolidation of corporate ownership—has led to blander news coverage.

Though most newspaper executives are supportive of the proposed FCC rule change allowing newspapers to own local television stations, Powell received some criticism. Editor and Publisher, the newspaper trade publication, reported that Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen thinks the FCC is keeping the public in the dark about the rules change process, which he fears will lead to fewer journalistic voices.

“People ought to be scared to death when you have a handful of big businesses that are getting bigger, that are going to control all the conduits of information,” he said. Blethen predicted deregulation would lead to a frenzy of consolidation, which would then unleash public opposition to the rule changes.

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