Copps warns against FCC rush to judgement on media ownership

by Ira Teinowitz, TV Week

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.

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