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Martin Lays Out Cross-Ownership Strategy for Newspaper Group

Martin Lays Out Cross-Ownership Strategy for Newspaper Group

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin thanked newspapers for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina today during an appearance before the annual convention of the Newspaper Association of America.
He cited the Times Picayune in New Orleans in prepared remarks: “Before the
hurricane struck, 240 employees and their relatives gathered at their office to wait out the storm. Even during the storm, they were able to publish an on-line version of that newspaper using a generator.”
The paper continued to publish from Baton Rouge and with the help of a small paper in Houma, La., he said.
In Mississippi, the Biloxi Sun Herald continued to print after the hurricane with help from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, he noted.
The commission is looking at how to ensure that the media continues to be there for the public in times of crisis, including whether news outlets should be given higher priority in terms of access to the supplies needed to continue their operations, noted the chairman, who also mentioned the 70 STAs and more than 100 emergency authorizations granted to broadcast stations to restore service in the areas affected by the hurricane.
He again called for the revision of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban, noting the media landscape has changed much since the rules’ inception in 1975, when there were only about 7,500 radio stations, compared to the nearly 14,000 facilities that exist today.
Yet newspapers have declined since that time, he noted, citing that nearly 300 dailies have stopped publishing since the cross-ownership rule was adopted. The FCC has tried to revise the rule several times under previous chairmen such as Reed Hundt and Bill Kennard, without success, he said.
The commission did eliminate the rule in 2003 under Chairman Michael Powell, but a federal court overturned the changes to that rule and sent it back to the agency for revision, along with most of the other changes to the media ownership rules the FCC had voted to adopt that year.
“We should correct any imbalance in our rules, create a level playing field, and give newspapers the same opportunities other media entities enjoy,” said Martin.
Once the commission gathers new comments on media ownership, it can decide whether to handle cross-ownership separately or to bundle it with all of the other media ownership rules, he said.