FCC Ownership Rule Decision Won't Come Until At Least March

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The Federal Communications Commission statutory review of its media ownership rules will not bear fruit until at least March of next year.

That was the message from Media Bureau chief Bill Lake in answer to a reporter's question about the FCC's quadrennial review of its rules following his speech at the Media Institute, where he said it was "a topic of great frustration of mine."

Lake noted that the FCC is still in the process of commissioning "eight or nine" studies. The FCC said it needed the studies to provide a "bottoms-up review," according to Lake. He cited an absence of funding and some "contracting difficulties" as the reason why the last study didn't get "out the door" until this week.

Lake said the studies typically take four months to be completed, then the FCC has to vet them.
"We will try to get a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as soon as we can," he said, "but that has to be after we've seen the result of the studies so we know what the facts are."

The FCC is also currently defending its old media ownership rule change in court. That was the 2007 decision to loosen, rather than lift, the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban, a move that was taken to court by broadcasters as too little dereg, and by public-interest groups that argued that any more dereg was too much.
The FCC officially launched the review May 25.
Specifically, the FCC is looking at five rules: the local TV ownership rule; the local radio ownership rule; the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule; the radio/TV cross-ownership rule; and the dual-network rule.

The notice made it clear the FCC also will take the Web's role into account. "The Internet clearly has not wholly supplanted traditional media, such as broadcast stations, newspapers, and cable systems, but it has increased the quantity of news and programming available to consumers."

It also asked what impact the National Broadband Plan should have, including how "access to audio and video content available over broadband" factors into its analysis of competition.

The FCC's initiative coincides with Third Circuit Court of Appeals hearing challenges to the agency's last quadrennial review-driven media ownership rule change. That is when the FCC, under then-chairman Kevin Martin, chose only to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule and leave the others intact. That move was panned, and taken to court, both by broadcaster, which said it did not go far enough, and consolidation critics, which said it went too far.

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