By: Madeline Rose

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been in the spotlight over the past
year in the fallout of their 2010 revision of existing net neutrality rules, implemented to preserve
an open Internet. While they have in recent months discussed heightening Internet regulation,
they are potentially going to loosen up on what some have called an out of date ban. Specifically
the commission is looking to relax a media ownership ban to thereby allow cross-ownership of
newspapers and TV with radio- something that has been prohibited in major metropolitan areas
for decades.

Roughly two years behind the Congress mandated schedule that the commission review rules every four years, Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed late Wednesday a revision of media ownership rules to the other four commissioners. The proposal will be most likely voted upon in December, though they could push it through and vote upon it at circulation. It may be
unwise for them to rush it, however, as this is not the first time the controversial cross-ownership
ban has come up in the past decade. In 2003, an attempt to modernize the rule was blocked by
a U.S. court on account of the FCC not clearly differentiating what markets would be eligible
to lift the ban, and which would not. Last year a federal appeals court overturned a 2007 rule
change due to the commission not giving the public adequate notice and opportunity to comment
before assigning the change. If the FCC hopes to stay out of court this time around, perhaps the
slower they address the issue, the better.
Ever trying to compromise, the FCC would almost entirely lift radio-newspaper cross-
ownership, and would lift TV-newspaper cross-ownership in the top 20 markets, while keeping
most ownership regulations intact in local markets. The ban was originally imposed to maintain
diversity in the market, as well as to promote competition and localism. However, the newspaper
market is suffering unlike ever seen before. Overall newspaper ad revenue having dropped 47%
from just 2005 to 2009 ( and with more and more people getting their news
online, supporters of a relaxed ban argue that cross-ownership may help recover a depressed
medium. If newspapers can gain new investors and collaborate with radio or TV news resources,
they may improve their outlook. Should the bans be lifted, the Chicago Tribune, for example,
will be able to pull itself out of bankruptcy by reorganizing investments and transferring licenses
to the new version of the company, the old version having held newspapers and TV stations
under exceptions to the 1975 rules.

On the other hand, public interest groups such as the Media Access Project argue that
lifting the ban would be bad for democracy and allow for a monopoly on voice within the
markets. While there will still be a provision preventing cross-ownership unless there are at
least eight major media voices per market, critics argue that being a time of transition in media,
the rules are still necessary to protect diversity. The other side argues that the Internet provides
countless voices on issues, though they come up short when defending how cross-ownership will
maintain localism. Lobbyists on both sides have begun their push to make opinions heard to the
FCC as they await a ruling.


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Written by Ad Buzz

The American Advertising Federation Illinois Chapter brings to you Ad Buzz, a blog dedicated to all things advertising related, from our favorite campaigns to trends going on in the industry.

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