FCC delays vote on changes to media ownership regs

Additional comment period will run 30 days

The FCC’s vote on proposed changes to media ownership rules has been put on hold for at least a month, as the agency collects comment on a recent report that showed a low rate of ownership among women and minorities.

Public interest groups have criticized the proposed changes circulating among the FCC’s five commissioners. A report released by the FCC on Nov. 14 confirmed, in great detail, what has long been suspected: ownership among of radio and TV stations among women and minorities is disproportionately small.

Bill Lake, chief of the FCC’s media bureau, said in a blog post that while the revamp of ownership rules took into consideration the small number of women and minority owners of media outlets, the agency has decided to make available a “further opportunity for public input.”

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, in rejecting a 2006 effort to relax some of the ownership rules, cited the insufficient time given the public to provide input on the proposals. Lake said the latest rule changes came after six public workshops, two rounds of comments and, after a notice of proposed rulemaking was issued last December, two more rounds of comments.

The new comment period will run 30 days, which the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights deemed too brief.

“This comment period does not permit a full opportunity to understand, analyze and offer comment on the ownership data, especially since the data was only released two weeks ago,” the org’s Wade Henderson and Nancy Zirkin wrote in a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

The organization is a coalition representing more than 200 civil rights groups. They said that the “burden of proof lies with the commission to demonstrate that its media ownership rules promote ownership by women and people of color, and thus, we expect the commission to give full consideration to the comments received in the new comment cycle.”