FCC's New Media Rules Worse than Advertised

StopBigMedia.com pledges to 'raise hell' in Congress and the courts
Contact Info: 
Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x22

WASHINGTON -- The new media ownership rules passed by a 3-to-2, party-line vote at the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday are far worse for the public interest -- and more favorable to Big Media companies -- than anything FCC Chairman Kevin Martin previously revealed to the public.

"Martin's claims that consumer groups approve of these new rules couldn't be farther from the truth," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. "What the FCC passed today is significantly worse than indicated in his proposal by press release. The waivers and giant loopholes contained in these new rules could spell disaster for citizens everywhere."

The majority of the FCC voted to approve more than 40 "waivers" for pre-existing cross-owned combinations in markets large and small. These waivers will shield companies like Tribune, News Corp., Media General and Gannett from even the weak standards of Martin's new media ownership rules.

Prior to today's vote, Martin portrayed his proposal as a "moderate compromise" that would allow one company to own both a daily newspaper and a low-rated broadcast TV station in only the 20 largest media markets. But research from Free Press -- collected in the Devil in the Details report -- exposed how the loose and ambiguous "waiver" standards in the proposal left a giant loophole for Big Media companies to sidestep the ban in any market and for any station.

But the final rule -- rewritten in the middle of the night before the hearing -- is even worse.

"The new cross-ownership rule retains all of the loopholes -- and adds two get-out-of-jail-free cards," explained S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press. "And based on the statements made by the commissioners today, it appears these new loopholes will allow cross-ownership mergers in virtually any market."

StopBigMedia.com and its allies pledged to fight the new rules in Congress and in the courts. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of 26 senators sent a letter to Martin, vowing to "immediately move legislation that will revoke and nullify the proposed rule." In 2003 -- the last time the FCC tried to change media ownership rules -- the Republican-controlled Senate passed a similar "resolution of disapproval." In addition, the new rules must past muster with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which remanded the previous rule changes back to the FCC.

"It's time to raise hell," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press. "More than two dozen senators have already vowed to throw out these new rules. And the courts won't look too kindly on the broken and corrupt process that brought us to today's vote. The fight is far from over. The growing public outcry is only going to get louder."

See an illustration of the FCC's new rules http://www.freepress.net/docs/decision_tree_of_martin_nbco_rule_(3).pdf

Read Devil in the Details: http://www.stopbigmedia.com/files/devil_in_the_details.pdf

Visit StopBigMedia.com

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good