Various compromises are being floated on media ownership rules as the FCC sorts through thousands of public filings, however one arrangement in particular seems to be getting traction.
Regarding a proposal to relax the radio-newspaper cross-ownership rule that limits an entity from owning both in a market, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters tells the commission it’s prepared to consider a compromise.
NABOB says the arrangement resulted from meetings and phone calls earlier in the week between several minority groups and FCC commissioners and staffers as well as Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake. In a filing to FCC Docket 09-189, NABOB Executive Director/General Counsel Jim Winston says that for the largest markets, the proposal NABOB would support allows a radio licensee to own a daily newspaper in the same market that it has stations, provided that licensee owns no more than two stations in that market. “In the smallest markets, where two stations would comprise a substantial portion of the stations in a market, the radio station licensee would be allowed to own only one station and a daily newspaper,” writes Winston.
The Newspaper Association of America supports the compromise. Some commenters believe it would be impossible for a radio-only company to compete for automobile advertising with a commonly-owned newspaper and radio station because of the market power held by newspapers, however the NAA says this is not a “real-world” view because newspapers no longer hold any dominant position in getting auto ads.
NAA cites current research from the National Association of Auto Dealers to prove its point. “In the 10 years studied, television automotive advertising has grown by 33%, and Internet automotive advertising has grown 500% — and in the same period, newspaper automotive advertising has fallen from 53% to only 20%,” noting print is losing out to ads on Internet sites such as Monster.com and AutoTrader.com. “Adding radio to the mix could not conceivably create a competitive force that would overwhelm the ability of any radio group to compete,” notes NAA attorney Kurt Wimmer of Covington & Burling.
The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council doesn’t object to “some” relaxation of the rule as long “as applied” ownership diversity isn’t diminished, MMTC Executive Director David Honig tells the FCC. The MMTC helped organize the compromise discussions.
While Free Press doesn’t comment on the compromise specifically, the advocacy group discusses the ways “that some media companies act” that can undermine the goals of the commission’s media ownership rules, including actions that go against ensuring economic competition between different media outlets. “The commission’s work on media ownership issues is important, and it should take care that its policies are not undermined by companies finding new ways to control the expression of viewpoints in the media and collaborating with each other to raise consumer prices,” writes Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer.