Lautenberg Calls for More Consideration of Ownership Rules

Sen. Says Vote with Further Study

Veteran News Corp. critic Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is the latest legislator to ask FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to rethink his media ownership proposal.

The chairman has circulated an item loosening the newspaper/TV cross-ownership rules and lifting limits on newspaper/radio and TV/radio cross-ownership, which has upset a number of longstanding consolidation critics, including minority groups who say the FCC has not sufficiently gauged the rule change's impact on diversity, as a federal court instructed it to do.

"I urge the FCC to carefully review, in an open and transparent manner, the full impact of any such revisions before enacting them," he wrote.

In a letter on Monday, Lautenberg renewed his criticisms of News Corp.'s WWOR-TV Secaucus, which the senator says "has not lived up to its obligations to serve the people of New Jersey." News Corp. disputes that characterization. He asked the FCC to review the revisions before voting them.

The item is currently circulated among the other commissioners, but the chairman has said the commission will continue to accept comments on an associated media ownership/diversity report that informed the item until early January, so no vote is expected before then.

"Given New Jersey's unfortunate experience with media consolidation, I am particularly disappointed to learn that the FCC is considering modifying its media ownership rules to the benefit of major media companies and to the detriment of local news coverage," said Lautenberg. "It is no secret that I have been frustrated by the FCC's pace of its review of WWOR-TV's license, which has prevented New Jerseyans from seeing the improved local news coverage they deserve.  It is troubling that amidst this inaction on a license that expired in 2007, the FCC is acting to further consolidate media ownership and risk a decline in local news coverage."

News Corp. owns and operates WWOR, WNYW New York and The New York Post under an FCC waiver of the cross-ownership rules.

The FCC is expected to be asked about the ownership item at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on incentive auctions Wednesday, but is also expected to continue to maintain that the rules have been vetted, diversity has been taken into account, and that loosening the regs is in the public interest.