Newspapers cry foul

Association tries to end ban on b'cast ownership

WASHINGTON — Newspapers once again have cried foul to the Federal Communications Commission over rules blocking them from owning a television or radio station in the same market as their paper.

The Newspaper Assn. of America on Tuesday filed an emergency petition for relief at the FCC, asking it to repeal the 25-year-old ban.

“It has long been clear that the FCC’s ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership does not serve any demonstrable public interest objective,” the NAA filing says, “yet the FCC has failed to conclude two separate pending proceedings aimed at repealing or relaxing the ban, or to act in response to a separate petition filed by the NAA in 1997.

“This month, the FCC added insult to injury … by relaxing virtually every major remaining broadcast ownership restriction other than its anachronistic and constitutionally infirm newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule.”

‘Discriminatory policy’

The association calls this lack of action a “discriminatory policy” that “threatens the ability of owners of daily newspapers to continue to compete effectively with other, more diversified information providers.”

The sense of urgency behind the emergency petition, NAA said, is that the FCC’s recent rule changes “are expected to cause a ‘feeding frenzy’ in which some broadcast station owners will rapidly expand their holdings. … After the conclusion of such a ‘broadcast land rush,’ a belated repeal of the newspaper/broadcast restriction would yield scant consolation to the nation’s newspapers.”

The filing goes on to request that if an outright repeal is not granted, the FCC at least institute a “broad and flexible waiver policy” until the rule is repealed.

According to NAA president/CEO John F. Sturm, “in its own TV ownership order, the FCC put forth the same reasoning — a huge increase in the number and types of media available, and the benefits derived from more efficient operations — that we have presented time and time again to justify repeal of the … ban.”

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