Media democracy advocates disappointed in FCC decision to defend discredited media ownership rule

by Free Press

The Federal Communications Commission filed a brief today with a U.S. appeals court defending the agency s 2007 decision under former Chairman Kevin Martin to weaken the Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-Ownership (NBCO) Rule.

The Martin NBCO Rule, which was adopted as part of the FCC s 2006 media ownership review, is marred by procedural irregularities, ambiguous provisions and loopholes -- all of which run counter to the rule s purpose: to protect local communities from media monopolies and to increase diversity in the marketplace of ideas. The watered-down rule allows media outlets to merge based on promises that the FCC cannot monitor or enforce.

Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright said:

We are disappointed that Chairman Genachowski directed the agency to defend a defective NBCO rule that has been widely criticized both for its substance and for the manner in which it was adopted.

We are also disheartened because the current Commission had the opportunity to fix a number of loopholes in the rule through the FCC s reconsideration process. But it declined to do so. As a consequence, the rule could allow local newspapers and TV stations to merge in virtually any market, resulting in less diverse and democratic media.

In May, Free Press, along with co-counsel the Georgetown Institute for Public Representation and Media Access Project, filed a brief arguing that the FCC s 2007 decision to significantly weaken its media ownership rules was unreasonable and against the law. The case is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit the same court that struck down a 2003 attempt by then-Chairman Michael Powell to lift virtually all of the FCC s media ownership limits.

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the FCC reminding the agency of the Senate s concerns about media consolidation. In 2008, the Senate passed a resolution of disapproval of the Martin NBCO Rule. The resolution had bipartisan support, including from then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Free Press, Georgetown Institute for Public Representation and Media Access Project brief

Statement and bipartisan letter to FCC

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