Setting the stage for a shift in regulatory philosophy with the dawn of a new Congress and presidential administration, House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) joined Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) in introducing legislation Wednesday that would end the FCC’s four decade-old prohibition against common ownership of a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market.
As part of an order completing the FCC’s first quadrennial review of the media ownership rules since 2007, the FCC decided by a 3-2 margin in August to retain the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership ban, which dates back to 1975. Although broadcasters had clamored for elimination of the cross-ownership ban and other media rule modifications that respond to competitive and other changes within the U.S. media marketplace, the FCC’s majority decided that “the public interest is best served by retaining our existing rules,” which “promote competition and a diversity of viewpoints in local markets.”
Describing the bill as “the latest in our continued efforts to modernize outdated rules and promote investment in the communications sector,” Walden—who is slated to succeed Fred Upton (R-MI) as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee—told reporters that “eliminating this relic of the disco era will provide much needed flexibility to . . . newspapers and broadcasters.” Yarmuth agreed that the measure “acknowledges that our current media landscape is far different than it was 50 years ago,” emphasizing that, “as we’ve seen the rise in fake news and its consequences, it is increasingly important that we do all we can to protect legitimate sources of news.”
Media groups were quick to praise the bill. Arguing that, “for too long, radio and television broadcasters have been saddled with archaic regulations,” National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith predicted that elimination of the cross-ownership ban will “save journalism jobs, create more investigative reporting, and provide communities with greater local news.” David Chavern, the CEO of the News Media Alliance, told reporters “we are pleased to see solid bipartisan support for commonsense legislation that reverses an outdated rule that does more harm than good.”