FCC votes to ease media ownership restrictions

Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:24pm EST
 
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By Peter Kaplan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Communications Commission voted on Tuesday to loosen media ownership restrictions in the 20 biggest U.S. cities, despite objections from consumer groups and a threat by some senators to revoke the action.

The FCC voted 3-2, along party lines, to ease the 32-year-old ban on ownership of a newspaper and broadcast outlet in a single market.

In addition, the FCC action exempted 36 newspaper-broadcast ownership combinations that had been grandfathered under the previous rule. It also exempted six ownership applications that were pending before the agency.

The FCC's Republican chairman, Kevin Martin, called the move a "relatively minimal loosening of the ban" and said it "may help to forestall the erosion in local news coverage."

The vote came over the objections of the FCC's two Democratic commissioners and in the face of opposition from lawmakers in Congress.

"The FCC has never attempted such a brazen act of defiance against Congress," said Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. "The law does not say we are to serve those who seek to profit by using the public airwaves.

"The law says we are to serve the public interest," Adelstein continued. "And the public has repeatedly told us they are not interested in further media consolidation."

Existing FCC rules ban ownership of a newspaper, and a television or radio station in the same market, unless the FCC grants a waiver.   Continued...

 
<p>Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin (R) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 29, 2005. The FCC voted on Tuesday to loosen media ownership restrictions in the 20 biggest U.S. cities, despite objections from consumer groups and a threat by some senators to revoke the action. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst</p>