Most US consumers get local news from papers

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WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - More Americans rely on newspapers as their source for local news than any other outlet, according to a study released on Thursday by two consumer groups that criticizing new media ownership rules for being based on poor data.

About 61 percent of those surveyed said newspapers were the most important source for local news, distantly followed by 29 percent who rely on local television, according to Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America, which has opposed consolidation in the media industry.

The group said the Federal Communications Commission overstated the importance of the Internet and radio as a source for local news and underweighted newspapers when it revised rules to permit companies to acquire more radio and TV stations.

"Relaxed ownership rules that allow dominant newspapers to combine with their most likely competitor - local broadcast television stations - are extremely dangerous to the goal of promoting diversity of viewpoints and competition for local news in public debate about important civic issues," the study said.

The FCC last year adopted rules that would lift a ban in most markets that prevented a company from owning a television or radio station and a newspaper in an area, but limiting or barring such cross- ownership in smaller markets.

That sparked an outcry from some quarters, including the consumer groups as well as lawmakers, who feared that consolidation in those industries would silence differing viewpoints and reduce coverage of important local issues.

The release of the study comes about two weeks before a federal appeals court in Philadelphia will consider whether the rules past legal muster.

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey