05.25.2010 03:00 PM
FCC Officially Launches Media Ownership Review
WASHINGTON: The FCC today released a Notice of Inquiry as
part of the 2010 quadrennial review of its media ownership rules. The NOI
comes as regulators consider the majority acquisition of NBC Universal by
Comcast, the first time a cable provider would control a major broadcast
network. The FCC most recently tapped John Flynn, formerly of ICO Global
Communications, as chief adviser on the $8 billion deal, announced last
The FCC’s media ownership notice initiates a query to determine whether current
rules promote “competition, localism, and diversity,” the commission said. The
NOI asks for input on several issues, including whether the aforementioned
items are promoted by current law and how these concepts can be measured.
The FCC also seeks feedback on how ownership structures affect competition,
localism and diversity. The NOI asks how to consider public interest goals that
may conflict with one another, and whether the commission should adopt
“bright-line rules,” or one that uses a case-by-case approach. It also asks for
comment on the cost and benefits of outlet-specific rules.
Veteran FCC commissioner Michael Copps is a long-time critic of media
consolidation and has repeatedly called for greater localism.
“Based on staff analysis as laid out in the Notice of Inquiry, there has been a
39 percent decrease in the number of commercial radio station owners between 1996
and 2010. In addition, we have seen a 33 percent decrease in the number of
television station owners over that same time period,” he said in his
statement. “It is difficult to fully quantify the harmful effects that media
consolidation has had on the news, information and entertainment we receive.
Fewer and fewer voices do not an informed electorate and robust democracy make.”
His Republican colleague, Robert McDowell, noted that economics and the impact
of the Internet drive consolidation. The FCC’s current media ownership rules do
not factor in the Internet.
“The commission has known since at least the time of its 2002 ownership review
that the Internet would have a profound effect on the media landscape, yet for
various reasons the agency has been unable to fully adapt its regulations to
the new realities,” McDowell wrote. “This time, I hope, we will get it
right. Burdensome rules that have remained essentially intact for more
than a decade should not be allowed to continue impeding, or potentially
impeding, the ability of broadcasters and newspapers to survive and thrive in
the digital era.”
Relaxing or eliminating current rules did not guarantee “a major wave of
ownership consolidation,” he said.
-- Deborah D. McAdams
(Image of NBCU’s Los Angeles Offices by Andy H.)