FCC hearings on media ownership tomorrow in Tampa
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04/19/10 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

The Federal Communications Commission will hold a public hearing tomorrow in Tampa on media cross ownership.

We will broadcast the full FCC hearings beginning at 3 tomorrow afternoon on our HD3 channel The Source. You can hear it on an HD radio or on the internet here.

For a preview, we spoke with former WMNF reporter Brandy Doyle, who now works for the Prometheus Radio Project.

The Prometheus Radio Project is an organization that supports participatory radio and a more democratic media by advocating for low-power community radio and building community radio stations. And we also work, as in this case, on media ownership issues more broadly.

Q. And speaking of media ownership, the FCC is in town tomorrow, is in Tampa, to discuss media ownership and cross-ownership. What is the purpose of that meeting, and what are the details?

The FCC will be in Tampa tomorrow to talk about its longtime ban on cross-ownership. Cross-ownership—the cross-ownership ban is the rule that one company cannot own the major newspaper and the broadcast station, either radio or television, in the same market. Now, Tampa is already a cross-owned market; Media General owns the Tampa Tribune and WFLA News Channel 8, because that situation predates the 1975 ownership ban. So the FCC is coming to Tampa to look at the general model here and decide whether to export that model nationwide.

Q. Give us some history about what the FCC has done with cross-ownership in thinking about reopening cross-ownership, and what Prometheus has done in this court case, called Prometheus vs. the FCC.

Under Chairman Michael Powell in 2003, the FCC tried to substantially deregulate cross-ownership. And they were stopped—both because of the landmark Prometheus vs. FCC court case, but also because of the hundreds and thousands of people that came out across the country to say no to media consolidation. There was a—hearings all over. And the FCC, under Chairman Kevin Martin in 2007, tried to do the same thing. They tried to deregulate again. They introduced a different form of cross-ownership, one that would allow cross-ownership in the top twenty markets, but was really permitted everywhere through a very lax waiver process. Now, the 2007 rules of Chairman Martin were again stopped by the court; the court put what is called a stay on the FCC. And that stay lasted from that time until about a month ago, in March, when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals removed the stay—which really permits the FCC to change the rules for the first time since 2003.

Now, in 2007, the FCC, as some people may remember, came to Tampa. And there was a big public hearing on media ownership. And that hearing was about the exact same rules that are now available to the FCC, the 2007 Kevin Martin rules. And many people came out. But not as many people have heard about the 2010 round. But the same issues are at stake; in fact, there is every indication that the FCC is ready to relax the ownership rules, and deregulate now. At a broadcasters’ meeting in Las Vegas last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski hinted that he’s open to deregulating. He announced at a Senate Commerce Committee meeting, also on Thursday, that he is opening a broad inquiry on changing media ownership rules. So this is a really critical time for media ownership.

And Genachowski—you mentioned that the new chair of the FCC was actually appointed under the Obama Administration. So some people would say that it’s a more favorable climate for media diversity. But as you mentioned, he is thinking about relaxing the cross-ownership rules. How do you think that plays out?

Well, I think a lot of people think that cross-ownership rules no longer matter, because of new technologies, because of the Internet. And I think that many people believe that these rules are part of something that’s outdated—what they call legacy media, newspapers, radio, television, that are losing their influence. And that’s just not true. In fact, a recent report the PEW Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism put out, the State of the Media Report hows that eighty percent of traffic for news and information websites is concentrated at the top seven percent of those websites, which are largely owned by the same companies that dominate offline media—the newspaper websites, the other traditional news sources. So the same companies that dominate offline media dominate online media. So if the FCC wants to really foster the Internet as a source for local, independent and varied news, they have to pay attention to the media ownership rules offline as well.

If folks are interested in coming out and participating in the FCC workshop tomorrow, it’s at the Marshall Student Center at USF campus; you can find directions there on the USF website. You can also go to prometheusradio.org\fccintampa for more information on how to participate.

FCC hearings in Tampa

Federal Communications Commission

Previous WMNF coverage of FCC hearings

The Source WMNF HD3

Prometheus Radio Project.

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