Senators want FCC to repeal media ownership rules

Two Republican senators — Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Roy Blunt of Missouri — have asked the FCC to repeal its radio and TV station ownership rules.

The rules governing newspaper/broadcast and radio/TV cross-ownership, mandated by both the courts and Congress, are being rewritten by the commission and are expected to be made public next year. The senators wrote the FCC, arguing that the broadcasters should not be forced to try to compete in the digital age while “strapped with regulations that do not apply to other competitors.”

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the lawmakers said that an “honest assessment” in the FCC’s ongoing media ownership review requires repeal, or modification, given the growth of new media — such as the Internet — that competes with broadcasters. Broadcasters have used this same argument for years.

The ownership rules, the senators argued, maintain a structural imbalance that has the practical effect of picking winners and losers rather than providing an unbiased competitive media environment.

“The commission should act proactively now to ensure that legacy audio, print and video voices are not specifically disadvantaged,” the senators wrote.

The last time the FCC tried to change the ownership rules was in 2007. Various parties took the changes to court. In the summer of 2010, the Third Circuit sent the rules back to the FCC for another try. The new attempt coincides with a review also mandated by Congress.