NABJ president to ask congressional leaders to reverse FCC media ownership rule change

The head of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) plans to meet this week with congressional leaders seeking to reverse a recent FCC rule change allowing greater media consolidation in local markets.

The NABJ said Monday President Barbara Ciara would meet with congressional leadership to push for the reversal of the changes that allow corporate ownership of both print and broadcast media outlets in the same city.

In December, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to change the commission’s 32-year-old ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership and presumptively allow a newspaper to own one TV station or one radio station in the 20 largest markets.

The change was the latest chapter in an ongoing debate between those who see greater media consolidation as a way to extend the life of anemic media properties that otherwise might close or go dark and those who view greater consolidation snuffing out independent voices in local media markets.

The chorus of those opposing the change grew more powerful in January when the House Energy and Commerce Committee said it would conduct a formal investigation of the inner workings at the commission, including how decisions like the one to relax the media cross-ownership ban get made.

For its part, the NABJ was among the first to criticize the rule change. On Dec. 20, 2007, the group called upon Congress to reverse the FCC decision. In a statement at the time, the organization said it “strongly believes that media ownership should reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of society and such a decision prohibits such diversity.”