FCC has to go back to the drawing board if it wants to ease the way for a company to own a newspaper and TV station in the same community. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shot down rules that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pushed through in 2008 to relax the cross ownership restrictions. The court said that Martin didn’t give the public enough time to respond to his proposals. That means the FCC probably will revisit the cross ownership rules beginning late this summer when it begins the Congressionally mandated quadrennial review of media regulations that was supposed to have been done last year. The court decision doesn’t require any company to divest properties. But if the FCC doesn’t adopt the same rules that Martin favored, it could affect Tribune: It used the 2008 standards to justify newspaper-TV cross-ownership arrangements in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has a serious PR problem on his hands following today’s release of a long-awaited 478-page report about the state of local journalism. Public interest advocates are livid over the absence of tough and sweeping proposals to improve TV and radio station newscasts. The Media Access Project, an activist law firm, blasted the report for lacking “meaningful recommendations.” And some are talking about trying to turn audience frustration over the lousy quality of local news into a high-profile political issue. Commissioner Michael Copps says he wants the FCC to hold at least three hearings over the next three months to see if the public agrees with report’s presumption that “they are being served by our present news and information infrastructure.” He adds that “there is real urgency here. … I cannot and will not leave these issues where they are.”
The report – Information Needs Of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape In A Broadband Age — was prepared by an FCC working group led by former journalist Steven Waldman. It says that local public-interest journalism has weakened as traditional newspapers and TV stations struggle to keep up with competition from Internet news sources.
I asked Andrew Jay Schwartzman, the SVP and Policy Director of the Media Access Project in Washington DC (http://www.mediaaccess.org) to write up his thoughts on the proposed merger:
Why Hollywood Should Care About the Comcast/NBCU Deal
By Andrew Jay Schwartzman
Comcast’s proposed acquisition of NBCU is bad for Hollywood.
It is bad for America, too. There are lots of reasons why. Here are just a few:
– It will raise cable prices.
– It will reduce diversity in news and other programming, especially in the markets where Comcast would own TV stations and cable systems. (In Los Angeles, Comcast would own some cable systems and three TV stations.)
– It will make it much harder for telephone and satellite companies trying to compete with video offerings of their own.
Even if you don’t care about the future of democratic discourse in the age of the internet, if you’re reading this, you will probably care about the industry. And this transaction would have lasting and dangerous effect on Hollywood. It will further solidify cable’s bottleneck on the video distribution of TV and features and enable cable to pay less for such content. And, perhaps most importantly, it will kill off the emerging market for “over the top” distribution via the Internet, depriving producers of the opportunity to develop direct relationships with competing distributors and even with individual consumers.
Simply put, cable owns the customers, and it wants to keep it that way.
The Internet is making it possible to distribute programming directly to
MORE MERGER WORRIES: Public Interest Groups Urge FCC To Deny Comcast/NBCU: “Anti-Competitive Impact Runs Wide, Deep”
WASHINGTON – On Monday, Free Press, Media Access Project, Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America filed a “petition to deny” with the Federal Communications Commission, calling on the agency to reject Comcast’s proposed acquisition of NBC Universal.
“The anti-competitive impact of this merger runs wide and deep. The result would be higher prices, fewer choices and diminished media diversity,” said Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright. “Approval would allow Comcast to own a huge array of popular programs and enable it to exert undue influence over the distribution of those programs on the airwaves, cable and the Internet.”
“While some groups have suggested that the deal can be approved subject to certain conditions, the harms of this merger are so great that the Commission must deny the merger outright,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of Media Access Project.
Post merger, Comcast-NBCU would control one in five television viewing hours in Comcast markets.
The filing makes clear that the merger is a bad deal for consumers. If the government allows the merger to go through, Comcast will raise prices, foreclose and block competitive entry, force unwanted program “bundles” on other cable and DBS systems, and discriminate against competing programmers seeking carriage.
The filing details how a merged company would have vastly increased ability to choke off online video competition before it gets off the ground. Comcast-NBCU could withhold NBC content from competing with NBC-owned Hulu and Comcast’s own online