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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

FCC Chairman Wants Cross-Ownership Ban Lifted

04-04-06 02:28 PM EST

CHICAGO (AP)--The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission urged newspaper publishers Tuesday to help his agency revive a push to lift a ban on the ownership of both newspapers and broadcasting outlets in the same city.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, addressing a gathering of publishers at an annual industry convention, said that newspaper owners should do more to educate the public about the vast changes that have occurred in the nation's media marketplace since 1975, when the ban was put in place.

"A lot has changed since the days of disco and leisure suits," he said, noting an explosion in the number of broadcasting outlets since then, as well as the rise of cable television and the Internet, all of which have made media much more competitive.

"We can't take on this process alone," Martin said. "Your job is to educate the public about the changes in the media landscape."

Previous FCC chairmen have also tried to get the cross-ownership ban lifted, and the agency finally made a rule doing so in 2003. But the following year a federal court sent the decision back to the FCC for further consideration, while acknowledging that the agency was right to remove the blanket prohibition on newspapers owning broadcast outlets in the cities they serve.

Media companies that own both newspapers and broadcasting outlets have long pressed for a removal of the ban, which they also say is outdated due to far greater competition among media outlets today than there was 30 years ago.

Shaun Sheehan, vice president of government affairs at Tribune Co., said in an interview after Martin's speech that the continuing ban on cross-ownership " doesn't make any sense at all.

"Somewhere down the line, the rule has to fall," Sheehan said. Tribune (TRB), like Gannett Co. (GCI) and Media General Inc. (MEG) and other companies, own both newspapers and television stations.

Consumer groups have opposed the drive to lift the ban on newspaper publishers owning broadcasting outlets, saying it would lead to the further consolidation of media ownership and could reduce the diversity of voices in local media.

Dow Jones Newswires

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