Martin Shakes Off Senate Critics, Promises FCC Cross-Ownership Vote

Dec 13, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Rejecting senators’ accusations the FCC is ignoring its main duty—protecting the public interest—in order to justify media ownership rule changes and would better spend its time on digital transition issues, FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin is promising to move ahead next week with an agency vote.
Appearing Thursday before the Senate Commerce Committee, Mr. Martin defended his plan, despite sometimes heated inquiries from senators from both parties urging a delay, offering only one concession.
Mr. Martin said he would add some clearer standards for when newspapers and broadcasters in smaller markets can ask the FCC for approval to buy each other.
Mr. Martin’s original proposal was for the FCC to replace its current ban on TV stations and newspapers in a market buying each other, with new rules tilted toward approving deals in the top 20 markets and against purchases in other markets, with exceptions. Critics have contented that proposal will promote consolidation in all markets because few standards were provided for the exceptions.
Mr. Martin told senators today he was willing to clarify that approval of any waivers depend on a showing that combinations would provide substantial additional local news choices in the smaller markets, and not just repeats of news aired elsewhere.
Senators today questioned the logic of allowing further ownership consolidation, the FCC’s justification for it and why the agency was racing ahead when it had other priorities.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who heads the Senate Small Business Committee, in spirited questioning suggested that with ownership of broadcasters by women and minorities already well behind the level of minorities in the population, the last thing the FCC should be doing is increasing consolidation and making it more difficult for minorities to buy in.
“As markets become more concentrated, concentration has the effect of making it harder for smaller stations to compete,” said Mr. Kerry. He also repeatedly quizzed Mr. Martin about why the FCC was using media reports of newspaper staff losses to justify policy changes at an agency supposed to be concerned about broadcasters and the public interest.
“It would seem you would want to represent the American people’s interest, not the interest of [media companies],” Mr. Kerry told Mr. Martin.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a former high-tech executive, suggested the FCC and some media industry execs have set up the Internet as a “boogey monster” to justify changes, when in fact Internet digital competition is no match for the real competition that will be lost between a newspaper and a TV station if the rule change is approved.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said with the digital transition set for Feb. 17, 2009, the FCC has real issues and concerns it should be working on, and that’s where any rush should be, not on media ownership.
Republicans too were critical, with both Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, criticizing the agency.
Mr. Martin, who appeared at the committee with other FCC commissioners, told the committee that he’s under direction from Congress and a court to complete the media ownership review. He also said that sharp differences among commissioners indicated a delay in a vote wasn’t likely to accomplish much, while moving forward would provide broadcasters some certainty about rules.


  1. Sloppy writing in this article.

  2. Not really. It is just sloppy leadership by the FCC Chairman. Remember, he is a tool of Bush. Of course, I know he is under direction of Congress and courts to check out media ownership rule changes, but there are way more pressing issues to worry about. Tuesday’s vote should be about postponing the transition to Digital.

  3. Took me moment in time toward study every one of of the comments, but I actually enjoyed the article. It proved being in fact ready to lend a hand to me with I am constructive to each and every one the commenters here! It’s generally pleasant whenever you can not just be informed, but in adding entertained! I am positive you had satisfying writing this write-up.

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