FCC plans draw fire

Dems bash media ownership studies

As part of its current review of media ownership rules with an eye toward loosening them — which already has sparked heated controversy — the FCC announced plans to conduct 10 economic studies on the issue.

But the agency’s two Democratic commissioners immediately attacked the plans as inadequate and secretive.

Studies will focus on individual topics such as the impact of ownership on programming; the relationship between cross-ownership and news reporting; and the status of minority ownership.

Announcement, issued Wednesday, identified study authors, who will include academics, FCC officials and the Nielsen organization. All studies will be peer-reviewed, the agency said.

“Today’s announcement of the commission’s new media ownership studies, unfortunately, raises more questions in the public’s mind than it answers,” commissioner Michael J. Copps said in a statement. “How were the (authors) selected for the outside projects? How much money is being spent on each project — and on the projects collectively? What kind of peer-review process is envisioned?”

Jonathan S. Adelstein, Copps’ Democratic colleague, said the announcement “ultimately undermines the public’s confidence” because “the legitimacy of the studies is directly correlated to the transparency of the process undertaken to develop the studies and select the authors. The descriptions of the studies are scant, lacking any sense of the commission’s expectations for scope, proposed methodology and data sources.”

FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin has stated the ownership rules are outdated and that limitations or restrictions should be eased to reflect the contemporary media environment. When the commission last voted to ease ownership rules in 2003 along strict party lines, a federal court blocked the attempt, saying it was unjustified.

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