4A's stays mum on media consolidation

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The nation's advertising agencies and media buyers chose last week not to take a formal position on media consolidation, despite previous stands against further loosening of media ownership rules.

Saying its members were unable to reach any consensus position, the American Association of Advertising Agencies said it would work with the Federal Communications Commission to explain how media advertising is bought, but not take a stand. Earlier, it planned to join consumer groups in opposing consolidation.

`expert views'

"We look forward to providing the commission with practical, insightful expert views on the rules as they affect the ad industry in the implementation stage," said Adonis Hoffman, senior VP-counsel for Four A's.

The FCC is in the process of reviewing its rules that limit how many media outlets one company can own in any single market. Those rules limit newspaper companies from buying broadcast stations in their markets, and set limits on the percentage of households that any single broadcaster can reach in a market, among other restrictions.

Media-buying executives and consumers have warned the FCC throughout the process that loosening these restrictions will concentrate too much clout with a handful of media companies.

Comments filed by the Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America and other groups warned that broadcasting is already too concentrated. They said media companies were wrongly equating the power of Web sites serving a small number of people with specific information with the power of broadcasters.

Walt Disney Co.'s ABC said the historical scarcity of programming that prompted the FCC's rules no longer exists. News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group, General Electric Co.'s NBC/Telemundo and Viacom argued that because local media can "contribute to the local discourse," the committee should weigh any outlet, Internet, local paper or broadcaster equally in viewing diversity.

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