Yesterday, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted in favor of new media ownership rules. The rules passed by a 3-2 margin, with the FCC’s three Republicans voting in favor of the rule change and the two Democrats opposing the change.
Under the new rules, media companies in the twenty largest media markets will be able to own both a newspaper and a radio or television station. Additionally, companies outside of those markets can apply for a waiver allowing them to bypass cross-ownership rules, although they will have to prove the cross-ownership is in the “public interest.” Some large media corporations–such as NewsCorp–already have similar waivers. The previous ban on cross-ownership was enacted in 1975 by the FCC to serve “the twin goals of diversity of viewpoints and economic competition.”
In advance of the vote, the rule change had been challenged both on a substantive and procedural level. Media reform activists argued that the rules would lessen diversity in media. According the media reform group Free Press, 100,000 people contacted Congress and the FCC to oppose the rule change. At public hearings–often with only two weeks notice–thousands testified against the change. Additionally, the FCC’s process has been challenged because of the FCC’s links to media industry lobbyists, inadequate public comment time, and failure to provide adequate notice of public hearings.
Free Press–one of the groups organizing against the rule change–is now calling on people to send a letter to Congress demanding that the rule change be over turned. When the FCC last lessened ownership regulations in 2003, Congress opposed the move and it was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. Moreover, on Friday, 26 Senators sent a letter to FCC chair Kevin Martin opposing the rule change and pledging to “immediately move legislation that will revoke and nullify the proposed rule.”