Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Martin has proposed that the FCC relax the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership to a limited degree, but otherwise to keep the current broadcast ownership limits in effect. Martin has set December 11 as the deadline for comments on his proposal.
Under the Chairman’s proposal, the FCC would presume a proposed newspaper/broadcast transaction is in the public interest if:
(1) the market at issue is one of the 20 largest Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs);
(2) the transaction involves the combination of a major daily newspaper and one television or radio station;
(3) if the transaction involves a television station, at least eight independently owned and operating major media voices (defined to include major newspapers and full-power commercial TV stations) would remain in the DMA following the transaction; and
(4) if the transaction involves a television station, that station is not among the top four ranked stations in the DMA.
All other proposed newspaper/broadcast transactions would continue to be presumed not in the public interest; however, under Martin’s proposal, the FCC would consider the following factors in evaluating whether an exception is in the public interest:
(1) the level of concentration in the DMA;
(2) a showing that the combined entity will increase the amount of local news in the market;
(3) a commitment that both the newspaper and the broadcast outlet will continue to exercise its own independent news judgment; and
(4) the financial condition of the newspaper, and if the newspaper is in financial distress, the owner's commitment to invest significantly in newsroom operations.
With respect to the remaining broadcast ownership rules currently under FCC review on remand from the Third Circuit Court, Martin stated that no further relaxation in the radio or television broadcast markets should be allowed. Thus, under Martin’s proposal there would be no changes to the local television “duopoly”, the local radio, or the local radio-television ownership rules currently in force and the FCC’s proceeding to revise the broadcast multiple ownership rules would be terminated.