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KAI RYSSDAL: The Fed wasn’t the only group in Washington changing the rules today. As had been widely expected, the Federal Communications Commission voted to relax its regulations on media ownership. Thirty-two years ago the FCC had ruled broadcasters couldn’t run newspapers in the same city. Now they can — in the country’s top 20 media markets, anyway. The Commission tried to do something similar four years ago but lost in court. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli reports we probably haven’t seen the last of this decision, either.
LISA NAPOLI: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin argues that in the age of the Internet there are more news sources than ever before. And, Martin says, allowing media cross-ownership will, in fact, rejuvenate the faltering newspaper business.
Media analyst Ken Doctor says he’s probably right:
KEN DOCTOR: Well, this guy gets it better than the publishers and the local broadcasters. The news industry is struggling and they need to embrace a multimedia platform.
But, Doctor says, it isn’t the FCC’s job to make decisions that could bolster a struggling industry. He also thinks media companies are likely to slash staffs and coverage, rather than expand them as a result of relaxed ownership rules.
DOCTOR: What it sets up is the likelihood of mergers and roll-ups.
Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project agrees. He says the FCC fell sway to lobbying by big media companies at the expense of the public interest:
Andrew Schwartzman: If these rules are upheld in court, it will mean that in large and small communities alike the diversity of voices will be diminished.
Groups like Schwartzman’s are likely to go to court to block today’s change in the rules. Twenty-five senators say they’ll fight it, too. Meanwhile, consumer groups are applauding another of the FCC’s decisions: To cap the number of homes one individual cable company can serve at 30 percent.
It’s believed that’s likely to open up burgeoning competition from phone companies and others who want to offer television service.
In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.
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