For weeks there have been reports, leaks, rumors, whatever you want to call them, about what FCC Chairman Martin was or was not going to propose regarding media ownership rules.
This week he told reporters he’s only proposing to change one rule: the ban that keeps a company from owning both a newspaper and either a TV or radio station in one market.
He’s proposing that the rule only be relaxed in the top 20 TV Nielsen Designated Market Areas and only in certain circumstances.
In a hastily arranged press conference, he spoke with reporters about what he called the “relatively moderate change.” Comments on the proposal are due Dec. 11; the chairman still hopes to get the item voted on in the Dec. 18 public meeting.
Martin told us he wanted to find an appropriate balance, not only to relieve financial pressures on newspapers in particular, but to address concerns about concentration.
The difference between the cross-ownership ban and other media ownership rules, he said, is that the other rules have been relaxed by the commission before, whereas the cross-ownership ban never has — putting it “in a completely different light.”
He hopes to get commission action soon on his other pending proposals to increase station ownership by minorities and women.
The Republican chairman said he had sought a narrow change all along, and had indicated that to Congress.
That didn’t sway Sen. Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D., who called the effort “ill-advised.” Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein were not happy with the proposal or the 30-day public comment period.