FCC Releases Media-Consolidation Research

Critics Have 60 Days to Register Comments

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Communications Commission has released 10 studies on the effects of media consolidation, and it hasn't taken long for critics to attack the findings and the agency.
FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps
FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps Credit: Chip East

The FCC said it would give the public 60 days to comment, but two Democratic FCC commissioners, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, questioned whether the public-comment period long enough.

"This is unfair, unnecessary and ultimately unwise -- inviting public, congressional, and judicial outrage reminiscent of what happened when the FCC tried to loosen media-ownership rules four years ago," they warned in a joint statement. "The commission's action today does not inspire confidence that this time around we are serious about getting it right."

'Biased research'
Consumers Union, meanwhile, issued a statement calling the studies "biased research" and "highly disturbing."

The 10 studies are an attempt to apply scientific research to ownership questions. They examine issues including how people get their news and information; ownership and what it means for the robustness of programming; how news operations are affected by market size; the effects of cross-ownership; and the impact of duopolies on station ownership by women and minorities.

A study on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations found that stations owned by newspapers offer more news than those that don't, but it didn't say whether the news presented was the same as that offered by the local paper. Critics of consolidation contend that cross-ownership leaves viewers with fewer choices for information, hurting public discourse.

A study of duopolies -- two stations in a market owned by one company -- found that companies with two stations showed more news than companies with one, but didn't make clear whether the same newscasts and reports were simply being re-aired or repackaged.

The release of the studies and the start of the 60-day clock for comments put the FCC on track to unveil new ownership rules early next year. The FCC is almost done with its public hearings on ownership.
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