Reaction mixed to media ownership idea

The KTLA-TV antenna in Los Angeles. The station and the Los Angeles Times are both owned by Tribune Co.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: Other than us, how many ways do you get your news? Today the head of the Federal Communications Commission announced his plan for media cross-ownership. As it stands now, the rules don't generally allow a single company to own a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same city. Today's proposal would formally relax the rules, but only in the country's 20 biggest media markets.

Marketplace's Bob Moon explains.


BOB MOON: The proposal from FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is the very definition of a compromise. It seems to have left no one quite happy.

The advocacy group Common Cause complains it would "allow big corporations to get bigger while decreasing the diversity of news sources." The Newspaper Association of America complains it's "extremely limited" and "does not go nearly far enough."

The FCC chairman wants to allow big-city newspapers to buy a TV station, but only if it's not among the top four ranked stations in the same community. Martin says he's trying to strike a balance. He wants to preserve the quality of local news coverage while preventing too much concentration of ownership.

KEVIN MARTIN: The newspaper industry has been under extreme financial conditions, and I think that there have been concerns about their ability to continue gathering news at the rate that they've been doing. They've had significant cutbacks in some cases on their news gathering resources.

ANDREW SCHWARTZMAN: If they have done any cutbacks, it's to please Wall Street, not because their balance sheets are truly in trouble.

Andrew Schwartzman heads the Media Access Project. He argues the relaxed rules for newspapers will actually reduce the diversity of news coverage for no real reason

SCHWARTZMAN: These are mature businesses. They're highly profitable businesses. They're not growing businesses, but they are not in distress.

Schwartzman also fears the proposal would make it easier for media companies to get FCC waivers for cross-ownership, no matter how small the market. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers from both parties are vowing to do what they can to delay any relaxation of the media ownership rules.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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