Leadership Conference Urges FCC Not to Rush to Media Ownership Order

Group: Taking Action on Ownership Rules Sans Diversity Data Would Violate Court Mandate 11/12/2012 6:22 AM Eastern

The FCC is getting some pushback from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights after reports in Multichannel News that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is trying to vote on a media ownership order before the end of the year.
The FCC is reviewing its media ownership rules per a congressionally mandated quadrennial review and a remand from the Third Circuit Court of appeals.

In a letter Friday to Genachowski, the group "urged" the commission to reconsider the decision to "permit additional consolidation of the broadcast media without the court-ordered data analyzing [of] the impact of media consolidation on communities of color and women."

"As we have previously stated to the Commission, any change in media ownership rules should take place only after the Commission collects, releases, and subjects to public comment complete data and analysis of broadcast ownership data," said the group. "It is a grave disservice to the constituencies represented by The Leadership Conference to attempt to push through a change in media ownership rules at the last minute without an opportunity for our members to sift through the data and engage in substantive debate about its import.

"A decision to alter any of the Commission's media ownership rules without this data will violate the mandate of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Third Circuit because it is impossible to understand any change on ownership by women and people of color in its absence," the group said.

Members of the Leadership Conference include the NAACP, Urban League and Communications Workers of America.

The Third Circuit told the FCC to better justify its diversity initiative undertaken under then-FCC chairman Kevin Martin as part of a 2007 vote to both loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules and adopt those diversity initiatives. Sources tell Multichannel News that the plan is to vote to loosen the cross-ownership rules -- perhaps even lifting the ban altogether on radio-newspaper cross-ownership, with some diversity element to that decision -- and to deal with the diversity initiatives in a separate item.

The FCC is poised to release its latest industry survey on ownership diversity -- the so-called 323 report -- which it is using to inform its decision on ownership rules.

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