The FCC laid out plans on Tuesday to revisit the contentious issue of media ownership with the release of a notice of inquiry (NOI) that seeks comment on the extent to which current FCC rules promote the agency’s goals of competition, localism, and diversity and what revisions to those rules, if any, are needed to promote those goals in the rapidly-changing U.S. media marketplace. Tuesday’s NOI represents the first step in a congressionally-mandated review of media ownership that the FCC is required by law to complete on a quadrennial basis. The last such review took place in 2006 and was capped by the adoption of an order in 2007 that relaxed the FCC’s long-standing ban against the common ownership of a newspaper and television station in the same market. That order, however, is currently under review by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously struck down a 2003 FCC order that relaxed or eliminated TV-newspaper cross-ownership restrictions and that also raised the agency’s cap on national TV station ownership. Noting, “we live in an ever-changing media world, but the core public interest goals [are] the same,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stressed that the purpose of the NOI is to “[foster] a strong and independent broadcast medium that provides Americans with multiple and diverse sources of news, public affairs, and entertainment programming.” Among other things, the NOI requests public input on (1) how localism, competition, and diversity in the U.S. media marketplace should be promoted, measured, and defined, (2) what regulatory approach (i.e., broad, case-by-case, or bright-line rules) the FCC should use if it is determined that the current rules no longer serve the public interest, (3) the costs and benefits of “outlet specific” rules as compared to regulations that apply to all types of media, and (4) the impact of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan on the agency’s media ownership rules. Citing statistics that show a 30% decrease in the number of broadcast station owners even as the number of commercial radio and television stations continues to rise, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps—an opponent of the 2003 and 2007 media ownership orders—voiced hope that “the third time [will be] the charm,” as “our country urgently needs a media that is reflective of our diverse communities and interests.”
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FCC initiates media ownership inquiry
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