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Concentration of media ownership

On June 2, 2003, The U.S. Federal Communications Commission or FCC, in a 3-2 vote, approved new media ownership laws that removed many of the restrictions previously imposed to limit ownership of media within a local area.

The changes were not, as is customarily done, made available to the public for a comment period. Two commissioners requested this public comment period (the same two who voted against the changes) and their requests were denied without justification.

The news coverage of this event was very low-key.

A few of the points included:

  • Single-company ownership of media in a given market is now permitted up to 45% (formerly 35%, up from 25% in 1996) of that market.

  • Restrictions on newspaper and TV station ownership in the same market were removed.

  • All TV channels, magazines, newspapers, cable, and internet services are now counted, weighted based on people's average tendency to find news on that medium. At the same time, whether a channel actually contains news is no longer considered in counting the percentage of a medium owned by one owner.
(Thus it is now possible for two companies to own all of a city's 2 newspapers, 3 local TV stations, 2 national TV stations, and 8 local radio stations, (up to 45% of the media each) so long as there are other companies owning the shopping channel, the discovery channel, and at least 10% of other non-news outlets.)

  • Previous requirements for periodic review of license have been changed. Licenses are no longer reviewed for "public-interest" considerations.

More information on the new consolidation rules is available from the FCC website. In particular, there are press releases from the commissioners who voted for the changes, and from those who voted against them:

For the changes: Chairman Powell (http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2003/db0602/DOC-235047A3.pdf)

Commissioner Martin (http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2003/db0602/DOC-235047A7.pdf)

Commissioner Abernathy (http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2003/db0602/DOC-235047A4.pdf)

Against the changes: Commissioner Copps (http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2003/db0602/DOC-235047A6.pdf)

Commissioner Adelstein (http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2003/db0602/DOC-235047A8.pdf)

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