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Study on minority ownership and newsgathering may delay FCC vote

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) has notified the FCC that it will conduct a study on the effects of cross-ownership rules on minority ownership and newsgathering.

The MMTC’s move immediately drew support to delay any FCC action on the vote until the study is complete. Both FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and the NAB agreed a delay in an FCC vote is preferable in light of the new information.

The MMTC study is expected to take several weeks and, when completed, will be filed with the FCC. 

“In this heavily-litigated area where a strong record is particularly important, I believe this is a sensible approach to moving forward and resolving the issues raised in this proceeding,” said Genachowski in a statement.

As the FCC considers the issues before it, Genachowski said guarding against excessive media consolidation, promoting ownership diversity, enabling robust local news for all communities, and fostering economic growth and opportunity are particularly important.

“The growth of the Internet is changing the media landscape, including the economics of local newspapers and broadcasters,” he said. “At the same time, while broadband adoption is increasing, tens of millions of Americans do not yet have ready access to news and other content available on the Internet, and changes in ownership rules may have different effects on those with or without Internet access.”

The NAB also reviewed the MMTC’s letter and agreed that there is potential merit in additional data-gathering regarding minority ownership, said Jane Mago, executive VP and general counsel, NAB, in a letter to the FCC.

“Accordingly, NAB does not oppose MMTC’s suggestion that the Commission defer action in the above-referenced proceedings pending its review of the results of MMTC’s study," Mago said.

Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the FCC is “in need of data that will enable it to make timely, smart and forward-looking decisions while taking into account America’s changing media landscape. I look forward to the results of the study, and am very pleased that such an examination is taking place.”

Robert McDowell, a Republican commissioner, said though he supports elimination of the cross-ownership rules altogether, “I respect adhering to a prudent process that allows for the submission of the proposed Minority Media and Telecommunications Council study, along with expedient but adequate public comment.”

However, the Free Press, a media access advocacy, is skeptical of the new minority study.

“We have serious reservations about the proposed study’s ability to meet the clear demands of the federal appeals court. The enthusiasm for these studies expressed by the broadcast lobby and its close allies gives us further pause,” said Matt Wood, the Free Press’s policy director. “We are skeptical, to say the least, of a study to be conducted by an analyst that has previously endorsed the FCC’s weakening of its longstanding rules. We wouldn’t presume to judge any study before it is completed, but the work of researchers with long-standing ties to the broadcast industry is no substitute for independent, peer-reviewed research.”