TV newspaper cross ownership

In a Public Notice issued yesterday, the FCC announced that it would do a series of open "workshops" in connection with its review of the broadcast multiple ownership rules – the rules that restrict the number of radio or television stations which one party can own and which restrict the cross-ownership of radio and TV stations and newspapers in the same market.  The FCC is poised to begin its quadrennial review of the ownership rules in 2010.  The open proceedings just announced (without details of how many workshops will be held) will be used to gather information for the Commission’s review of the rules. According to the public notice "the Commission will seek viewpoints and information from a broad range of experts; consumers; public interest and trade associations; labor unions; media industry representatives, both traditional and new; and other interested persons,"  as the first step in this review process. So what is this all about?

As part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC was instructed to do a regular review of broadcast multiple ownership rules, seemingly with the intent of reducing the prohibitions of those rules as part of the general deregulatory spirit of that Act.  Originally, proceedings were to review the rules every two years, a Biennial Review.  However, those reviews kept dragging on and becoming consolidated with each other so Congress eventually amended the law to require that the review take place only once every four years.  But each time the FCC has taken action on the rules, especially any time there has been any liberalization, there has been a major outcry from consumer groups that they were left out of the process.  Perhaps the just announced hearings are an attempt to short circuit that protest by getting the public involved even before the process begins.


Continue Reading FCC Plans Public Workshops to be Held in Connection with Its Review of Broadcast Ownership Rules

At the end of last year, we wrote about the decision of the Detroit newspapers to go to a 3 day a week publication schedule, and asked the question that we had heard posed by a writer for one of the communications trade publications – "will the FCC rules limiting the cross-ownership of broadcast stations and daily newspapers outlive the newspaper itself."  In the last few weeks, that question has become even more relevant.  The FCC’s decision to relax the cross-ownership restrictions in December 2007 drew widespread condemnation from many big-media opponents, and even attempts to overturn the decision, even though its direct effect was limited to the nation’s largest markets.  One now wonders whether, with the current economic condition of newspapers and broadcast stations, the rules should not be revisited, for purposes of further relaxing those rules, not tightening them.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a major newspaper in Denver stop its presses for the last time, and companies owning papers in many major markets, including Minneapolis, Philadelphia and New Haven, all declare bankruptcy.  At the same time, papers in San Francisco and Seattle have warned that they may also shut down if there are not significant savings found or new buyers.  Even venerable papers like the New York Times have been the subject of shut-down rumors, and the Wall Street Journal and other papers in the Rupert Murdoch empire have been said to be dragging down the profits of the News Corporation. 


Continue Reading Will the Newspaper-Broadcast Cross Ownership Rules Outlive the Newspaper?

Last week, the US Senate passed a resolution of disapproval, which seeks to overturn the FCC’s December decision relaxing the multiple ownership rules to allow newspapers and television stations to come under common ownership in the nation’s largest markets (see our summary of the FCC decision here).  This vote, by itself, does not overturn that decision.  Like any other legislation, it must also be adopted by the House of Representatives, and not vetoed by the President, to become law.  In 2003, the last time that the FCC attempted to relax its ownership rules, the Senate approved a similar resolution, but the House never followed suit (perhaps because the decision was stayed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before the House could act).  In this case, we will have to see whether the House acts (no dates for its consideration have yet been scheduled).  Even if the House does approve the resolution, White House officials have indicated that the President will veto the bill, meaning that, unless there is a 2/3 majority of each house of Congress ready to override the veto, this effort will also fail.

The reactions to this bill passing the Senate have been varied.  The two FCC Democratic Commissioners, who both opposed any relaxation of the ownership rules, each issued statements praising the Senate action (see Commissioner Copps statement here and that of Commissioner Adelstein here).  The NAB, on the other hand, opposed the action, arguing that the relaxation was minimal, that it was necessary given "seismic changes in the media landscape over the last three decades" (presumably referring to including the economic and competitive pressures faced by the broadcast and newspaper industries in the current media environment), and that it ought not be undone by Congressional actions.   


Continue Reading Senate Resolution of Disapproval on Multiple Ownership – What Does it Mean?