Media cross-ownership takes a hit - public interest wins this round

07/08/11 Lisa Marzilli, Beth Bell
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On today’s Last Call we discussed the issue of media consolidation and specifically how it’s affecting local news outlets across the country.

Yesterday, a federal appeals court upheld media ownership rules dating back to the 1970’s that prevent a single owner from controlling a newspaper and broadcast station in the same city; a situation similar to what the Tampa Tribune has here locally with News Channel 8. In Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC the court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission did not give the public enough notice to weigh in on its 2007 decision to relax cross-ownership rules under former chairman Kevin Martin and they sent the rules back to the FCC to be rewritten. The ruling marks the second time the appeals court has intervened in the commission’s attempts to relax media ownership rules.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, the commission’s most vocal critic on media consolidation, hailed the decision as a “huge victory for the millions of Americans who have gone on record demanding a richer and more diverse media”. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also weighed in saying she hoped this Court decision “will serve to encourage all of us at the Commission to take a laser like focus on the necessary and long awaited need for robust ownership studies and thoughtful recommendations to advance diverse voices in America's media market place."

Our guest for the half hour was Josh Stearns, Associate Program Director at the media reform group Free Press. He oversees their journalism, public media and media consolidation campaigns including one called “SaveTheNews”. He’s also co-authored a great piece about the assault taking place on local newsrooms across the country titled “Outsourcing the News – How covert consolidation is destroying newsrooms and circumventing media ownership rules”.

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