A staff analysis produced by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in 2004 that showed that local ownership of television stations benefits the public was ordered destroyed by senior agency management, according to a story by Associated Press reporter John Dunbar. The report was written shortly after the FCC voted to relax media ownership rules in 2003, despite receiving over 3 million public comments in opposition to the plan.
Florida PIRG and allied groups have reacted by reminding the public that they have another chance to show opposition to media consolidation. The FCC is accepting public comment until Friday, September 22nd on new changes to media ownership rules.
“First, the FCC ignored public support for local media. Then, the agency ignored its own research showing local media ownership is in the public interest. Now, the FCC has the opportunity to change course and reject the weakening of media ownership limits,” said Brad Ashwell, Florida PIRG's legislative advocate.
According to news reports, the FCC staff analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of "on-location" news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision relaxing ownership rules.
This study alerts us to the possibility that further ownership consolidation could lead to the substitution of non-local news for local content. When the Commission ignored the millions of comments Americans filed against the planned deregulatory package, media reform groups challenged the economic arguments the Commission put forward in court. The Third-District Court of Appeals found in favor of the consumer groups and ordered the Commission to revisit the agency's rules.