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Hundt Says Drop Cross-Ownership Ban

Rule is “perverse” now, he tells audience at UCLA this week

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt says the commission should repeal its rule that prevents one entity from owning both a newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market.

The ban has been in place since 1975 and under current market conditions it’s perverse, given the news available over the Internet now, Hundt said in a speech given at UCLA this week.

Rumor had it that President Bill Clinton didn’t want the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban repealed as part of the 1996 Telecom Act because Clinton didn’t want the owner of the Little Rock newspaper to be the same person who owned the dominant television station in that market, according to Hundt. He said Sen. Fritz Hollings, (D-S.C.), then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, felt the same way about how dropping the ban would affect the media in his state.

“But if I lacked the gumption and votes at the FCC to get rid of the rule then, the proliferation of Internet access and content over the past 17 years should give today’s commissioners the conviction to do the right thing,” said Hundt this week.

“It is important that minority views — whether a minority is defined by race, religion, wealth, income, politics, education, disability, gender, sexual orientation or any other distinction — have the chance to be heard. But there’s no way for the FCC to accomplish this laudable goal by controlling who can own a newspaper,” Hundt said, according to an op-ed in The Washington Post.