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WASHINGTON -- On Monday, Free Press slammed the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to further weaken media-ownership rules. The FCC has kept most details under wraps, but reports indicate the plan would allow cross-ownership of newspaper and TV stations in the 20 largest broadcast markets. Other rule changes would allow for greater radio consolidation.

The FCC is also reportedly attempting to avoid holding a vote on the matter at an open FCC meeting, and the agency has not held any public hearings on the proposed rule changes.

The rules are similar to those proposed by then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in 2007. Martin’s rules were later overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In its decision, the court directed the FCC to study the impact of its rule changes on ownership diversity — something the agency has failed to do. Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. TV stations owned by people of color are located in the 20 largest markets, raising concerns that Chairman Genachowski's proposal would lead to even lower levels of minority broadcast ownership.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“Chairman Genachowski’s attempt to overhaul longstanding media ownership limits is little more than a gift-wrapped giveaway to Rupert Murdoch. Recycling the Bush administration’s failed policies not only ignores the will of the courts and Congress but is a slap in the face of the 99 percent of Americans who oppose further media consolidation.

“It’s shameful that this administration has chosen to ignore the public without ever facing them. Chairman Genachowski hasn’t attended a single public hearing on this proposal. In the previous administration, Chairman Kevin Martin held at least seven public hearings across the country attended by all five commissioners.

“It’s baffling that the FCC is even considering rushing to vote on this warmed-over proposal.  The Third Circuit made it crystal clear that the agency must study the impact of any rule changes on broadcasting opportunities for women and people of color. The FCC hasn’t done anything like this.

"The existing data show increasing consolidation crowds out female and minority owners, who tend to be smaller businesses that own just a single station. Does the FCC actually think that increasing consolidation will help achieve President Obama's goal of greater ownership diversity?

"The FCC's headlong rush to push through these policies behind closed doors shows a blatant disregard for its own public interest mandate and the court's clear instructions."

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