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Media Ownership Stymies Commissioners

“I think every one of us is grappling with the way to move forward,” FCC’s Jessica Rosenworcel tells Senate Commerce Committee

“I think every one of us is grappling with the way to move forward,” says FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

She’s referring to the changes the commission is contemplating for the media ownership rules.

While the agency vote is postponed as a diversity study is underway, there doesn’t seem to be a clear path forward on how or whether to relax any or all of the rules, judging by comments the commissioners to the Senate Commerce Committee members yesterday during an FCC oversight hearing.

Noting that he has about a dozen ways to get news on his tablet during the hearing, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio asked for an update.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said newspapers have come under “real pressure” yet some 30% of Americans can’t get many sources of news. Concerns about media consolidation are important, he noted.

“We are long overdue for modernization,” said Commissioner Robert McDowell, noting 2007 was the last time the agency voted on changes and even those were “meek.”

“The investment and eyeballs are flowing to new media,” said McDowell.

Rosenworcel, a committee staffer before her appointment to the FCC, said the agency is grappling with several trends governing “the ways we create, consume and distribute content.”

A recent Pew Research study found 74% of consumers still get news from broadcast television, 12% still get it from radio and newspapers, she said, but while there’s new ways to create news “sometimes the origination of that news still lies with the traditional medium. I think every one of us is grappling with the way forward” on the issue, Rosenworcel said.

The commissioners didn’t give the Senators a timeline for when the media ownership review would be completed.

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