In Depth

Copps Cautions FCC Against Being Over-Hasty on Media Ownership Rules

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps has suggested the agency is starting to speed up in the pace of its examination of new media-ownership rules and warning that some important questions about minority media ownership need to be resolved before any rules are proposed.

He also issued a second warning about any attempt to alter the FCC’s cross-ownership rule that prevents newspapers and broadcasters from buying each other in the same market before the rest of the ownership rules.

Mr. Copps’ comments come as the FCC prepares to schedule the last of its six hearings on media ownership. The commission also faces a key decision on whether to approve the sale of the Tribune Co., which would lead to de facto violations of the existing cross ownership rule in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Hartford, Conn. Tribune has requested a waiver of the cross-ownership rule and approval of the sale by year end if the rule hasn’t been changed by then.

The FCC has been expected to propose any new rules next year.

In a press conference today, Mr. Copps suggested the FCC’s new pace could advance that date, but declined to say whether he thought the move was the result of concerns about the Tribune deal’s fate or concerns that Republicans could lose the White House.

“I’m concerned that is moving fast, and the way it seems to be moving is not the way a credible, open, transparent deliberative process should be taking place,” he said.

Mr. Copps warned he would “absolutely” oppose any attempt to consider the cross-ownership rule separately from others, saying it was vital to examine ownership rules as a whole and not one by one.

Mr. Copps said the commission’s failure to review minority ownership issues in its last look at ownership was a big focus of an appellate court ruling that overturned the rules. He said the FCC needs to take steps to ensure minority owners “need to have a seat at the table” when the commission addresses new rules.

(Editor: Horowitz)

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Comments 21

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The whole media situation was much, much better for the vast unwashed public when ownership was limited to about 7 stations per owner in the entire country; and NO two in the same market.
Today we have entire markets controlled and
dominated by single owners!
No wonder there is no divergance of editorial opinion - or, for that matter the higher quality of programming that increased competition would demand.
In my day we were proud to be in broadcasting...Today, I can't see this attitude anywhere. Sad, sad...

Ralph Wieland

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With respect if this is THE Red Blanchard of WLS fame, I take strong exception to his posting. There is NOT one TV market in the U.S. where a SINGLE owner has control of every media outlet, much less ALL TV stations. What many so-called "watch dog" groups fail to realize is that thanks to Congress (and lobbyists for the consumer electronics industry) broadcasters are saddled with having to go digital in short order--2/17/09. This costs MILLIONS of dollars and the expense doesn't change whether the market is New York City or Glendive, Montana. In an effort to STAY IN BUSINESS in the ever-changing media landscape, some owners have found that combining operations (either with another TV station, radio station and/or newspaper) allows them to continue to provide important local news and information. With the advent of the Internet and other alternative media, to think that any ONE broadcast group can have a stranglehold on the delivery of this kind of information is ludicrous at the very least and disingenuous at the worst.

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Well I'm not the person you think I might be, so you can withdraw the 'respect.'
I am pleased to see you use the word 'disingenuous,' since it seems to fit your post perfectly.
Have you even counted the number of stations in, say, the Los Angeles market, and how many owners there are? And now they are trying to take over the newspapers too!

Ralph Wieland

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In response to Red's note, last time I checked there were at least EIGHT owners of TV stations in L.A.--including ABC, CBS, FOX, ION, NBC, TBN, Tribune, Univision and I'm probably missing a few.

Look, I understand everyone's concerns about consolidation, but I think the focus is on the wrong target. I find it ironic that the more controversial issue of the ownership cap on TV stations nationally was compromised at 39% by Congress. Local cross-ownership makes for better journalism and no ONE entity is cornering the market on TV stations. There's also no dearth of newspapers in L.A., although I obviously get the fact that Red's talking about The Tribune Company's recent activities.

I still contend that the ownership rules need to be relaxed if broadcasters are to survive the onslaught of Internet, IPTV, cable, satellite, podcasts, webcasts, VOD and so on that are now a growing part of the very competitive local media landscape.

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Cross ownership arrangements are a threat to public good. Take our investigation of Newsweek's undisclosed "partnership" with MSNBC. See http://www.stinkyjournalism.org/latest-journalism-news-updates-96.php

Why did Newsweek make Fred Thompson number one winner in amount of articles: Thompson (19 articles from Mar '07 to Oct 15 '07) versus Hillary (10 articles) Obama (10) and others like Richardson or Kucinich (a big fat zero articles)?

Thompson is an NBC employee and NBC's Law and Order show(s) is their leading brand. None of the 19 articles on Thompson disclose that their partner, NBC, employs Thompson.

It is widely reported that GE, NBC's owner, has pushed NBC hard,to produce profits. Did MSNBC while sharing content with Newsweek push Thompson coverage as they shepherded the Newsweek site ?
Readers may perceive so, hence why they should have disclosed.

Proportionate coverage that fairly reports on all the candidates may have been sunk due to a new subversion of cross ownership rules, namely cross partnerships of content sharing.

Ralph Wieland

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Stinky response on that last posting. Fred Thompson USED to be an employee of NBC-Universal via Dick Wolf Productions. He no longer is. He's also not doing that well in any polls as of this writing, so that point is superfluous. Rhonda needn't worry, though, as it would appear that the FCC is caving into to special interest groups like hers and not offering any meaningful relief to broadcasters or newspaper owners. Heaven help us if Congress decides to start "regulating" the Internet, but that's probably inevitable, too.

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Hey Ralph, Thompson is receiving a residual check every time his episodes run. He may not technically be an employee --but there are financial ties that still bind. Receiving a check sounds like employment related income to me. IRS thinks so too I am sure.

Also you falsely declare that we are a special interest group. We promote the use of methods that reach beyond bias. Our mission is truth and accuracy in media. No party affiliations at all. So please check your facts http://www.stinkyjournalism.org

You speak of "meaningful relief for media" as if they were starving countries. The fact is media companies are not satisfied with profits they have.

FCC did not cave. There is great risk resulting from mega media ownership. The truth suffers. The public is not served.

NBC is owned by GE. Will any investigation ever be done of GE by NBC? Heck no. The truth takes a back seat to corporate profits and truth as statistics show.

The 4th estate is no more. Democracy is threatened by the lack of media independence and the seeking of profits over public good.

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Forgot to mention, Thompson only quit Law $ Order at the 11th hour--May 31, 2007. So lets get real here.

Do you think he will "officially" go back to NBC after enhancing his brand with his Pres run attempt? Support of Thompson by NBC, is equal to support of Law $ Order-- NBC's most profitable brand.

So does not matter if Thompson is doing well in polls or not. Win or lose, Thompson's run is big win for NBC profits. Thompson brand is an NBC asset. That's my point and why Newsweek, NBC's partner, would be motivated to give Thompson such advantage in coverage.

This treatment of Thompson is an important case study of how corporate ownership interests can effect an election. All the grossly unequal space taken by Newsweek's Thompson coverage could have, and should have, been educating the public about the other Dem and GOP candidates.

NBC Today Show put pictures of the lessor known candidates from both parties in front of people on the street who had no idea who they were...ha ha ha. The joke is on us the public . Maybe if Newsweek would have done their job and covered all the candidates, the public would recognize them and the issues and cast better votes.

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