Over a year ago, the FCC released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on amendments to the FCC’s multiple ownership rules. Issues from newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, to local TV and radio ownership limits are all being considered. Our summary of the issues raised in the NPRM is available here. The FCC has been holding field hearings throughout the country on its proposals, gathering public comment on the proposals – the most recent having been held in Chicago last night. Only one more field hearing to go and the Commission will have conducted the six hearings that it promised. Many, including me, had felt that the timing was such that no decision in this proceeding could be reached until 2008 and, as that is an election year, the decision could quite well be put off until after the election to avoid making it a political issue. However, there are now signs that some at the FCC are gearing up to try to reach a decision late this year or early next – presumably far enough away from the election for any controversy to quiet before the election. With this push, others are expressing concern about a rush to judgment on the issues, and may well seek to delay it further.
Evidence of the FCC’s increasing attention to the multiple ownership issues include the recent Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, asking questions about minority ownership and making proposals on how that ownership can be encouraged (proposals we summarized here). The FCC has also asked for comment on several studies that it commissioned to look at the effects of ownership consolidation in the broadcast media (the public notice asking for comments is here, and the studies can be found here). Comments on the Further Notice and the ownership studies are due on October 1, with replies due on October 15. Some have suggested that this time table is unnecessarily accelerated, especially as certain peer review documents on the ownership studies were just recently released.