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Bipartisan Bill Takes Aim at “Disco-Era” Media Regs

Top House members suggest broadcast/newspaper ban should go way of mirror balls and polyester suits

Incoming House Energy & Commerce Committee chair Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., have introduced a bill to repeal the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban, citing, for one thing, the need to have real news to counter the “fake news” that has been getting so much attention of late.

Those are likely to be rolled back in a Trump FCC anyway, but the legislators are taking no chances.

The FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler declined to scrap the rule in the recent Quadrennial ownership review, despite suggestions on both sides of the political spectrum that it had outlived its usefulness.

The rule dates from 1975 and prevents TV and radio stations from owning a daily newspaper in the same market. The FCC in 2003 under then-chairman Michael Powell, found the rule no longer in the public interest, but that decision was challenged in court and was more recently not the conclusion of the Democratic majority under Wheeler.

“This bipartisan effort finally acknowledges that our current media landscape is far different than it was nearly 50 years ago,” said Rep. Yarmuth in a statement. “As we’ve seen the rise in fake news and its consequences, it is increasingly important that we do all we can to protect legitimate sources of news. This legislation would give media entities the flexibility they need to compete and grow in this challenging marketplace.”

“Times have changed, and it’s critical our media ownership rules keep pace with the innovation era,” said Walden, himself a former broadcaster. “This bipartisan bill is just the latest in our continued efforts to modernize outdated rules and promote investment in the communications sector,” said Chairman Walden. “Eliminating this relic of the disco era will provide much needed flexibility to the many newspapers and broadcasters throughout the country that provide important local news coverage and encourage greater investment in original journalism. We want what’s best for consumers and this bill provides a thoughtful solution that puts the public’s interest first.”

“NAB applauds Chairman Walden, Rep. Yarmuth and their bipartisan cosponsors for introducing a bill to eliminate the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rule,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “This legislation is an important step towards aligning outdated broadcast ownership rules with Americans’ 21st century information needs. For too long, radio and television broadcasters have been saddled with archaic regulations preventing them from investing in newspaper ownership. Striking this cross-ownership ban would save journalism jobs, create more investigative reporting and provide communities with greater local news.”

Broadcasting & Cable