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WASHINGTON -- On Monday, Free Press filed comments in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to water down media-ownership limits for local newspapers and broadcast stations. To read the comments go to:

The FCC’s proposals are the very same rule changes that former Chairman Kevin Martin offered in 2007 and that the public, Congress and a court subsequently rebuked. In 2011, a federal court of appeals threw out the 2007 effort to weaken the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule. In its decision, the court instructed the FCC to assess the impact of its media ownership rules on ownership opportunities for women and people of color who historically have been grossly underrepresented in ownership of radio and television stations. The case marked the second time that the court rejected an FCC attempt to relax its ownership rules. The court also rebuked the Commission for failing to consider rules that would increase ownership opportunities for women and people of color.

Free Press Senior Policy Counsel Corie Wright made the following statement:

“In this proceeding, the Commission appears to have once again ignored the court’s instruction to address diversity issues. Instead of collecting the data necessary to assess and promote ownership opportunities for women and minorities, the FCC now plans to punt consideration of these issues to 2014, defying the court’s instructions. While the proposals put forth in this proceeding are leading the agency down the wrong road, the Commission can still correct its course. The FCC must address the court’s diversity remand before it finishes the current ownership review — or risk being overruled for a third time.

"At a time when conglomerates are spinning off their broadcasting and print operations, the FCC's recycling of Chairman Kevin Martin's loophole-ridden cross-ownership rule is nothing more than a solution in search of a business model. Increasing cross-ownership will not help the newspaper industry; it will only push it further into debt while also harming the production of quality local news. There is simply no credible evidence showing that relaxing the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule will benefit the public. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The majority of research — including the FCC’s own study — shows that TV-newspaper consolidation results in less news in local markets, as well as fewer independent producers of local news.

"Furthermore, the FCC has no business relaxing its ownership rules when it has shown it can't even hold broadcasters to the letter of existing law. The local TV ownership rules are supposed to promote competition between local stations, but some broadcasters are skirting the rules by entering into secret deals to combine local newsrooms and station operations. If it walks like a duopoly and talks like a duopoly, it should be treated like a duopoly under the Commission’s rules. Ending the practice of covert consolidation must be a top FCC priority as the agency reviews its ownership policies."

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