Fritts Frets About FCC Diversity Index


Washington -- The Federal Communications Commission's plan to utilize a
"diversity index" to measure competition and weigh media voices in a media
market might prove impossible to administer, National Association of
Broadcasters president Edward Fritts warned in a speech Wednesday.

"We have examined this idea from many different perspectives, but we are
concerned that applying such an index will be difficult, if not impossible, to
administer," Fritts told a Media Institute audience that included Republican FCC
members Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy.

Martin has raised similar concerns about a murky diversity index supplanting
bright-line rules.

Broadcasters are concerned that the diversity index might end up nullifying
deregulatory steps that the FCC is expected to take June 2.

The NAB, for example, wants new rules that would allow newspapers and
broadcasters to merge in the same market and rules that would allow more common
ownership of TV stations in the same market.

Fritts noted that FCC chairman Michael Powell promised that the diversity
index would not be too cumbersome or complex, but NAB staff members have been
struggling with how the commission would actually go about assigning various
numerical values to newspapers, television stations, 200-channel cable systems,
radio stations, satellite-radio services and the Internet.

"It seems to be very difficult, at least by my limited scope, to put your
arms around that and quantify what it is you have," Fritts said. "We just don't
know enough about it to make a definitive decision at this point."

Asked if he had an alternative in mind, Fritts indicated support for specific
ownership limits by type of media service.

"We have rules now for each medium," he added.