Steven Waldman, the FCC’s senior advisor on the future of media, agreed with his former boss, News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, that the commission needs to consider easing media cross-ownership rules.
As Washington considered the Comcast-NBC Universal’s merger, Waldman, a former national correspondent for Newsweek and national editor at U.S. News, then founder of News Corp-acquired Beliefnet, is leading the FCC’s study on how the commission can help the beleaguering media business.
“We are not designed to replace the ownership rule review proceeding,” Waldman told Broadcasting & Cable:
We’ll just coordinate with the Media Bureau in doing the ownership rules. I do think that when you are looking at this whole issue, absolutely we should be looking at whether there are any obstacles in the form of government regulations that are making things harder, as well as whether there are new government approaches to promote the public interest. So in general, both removing obstacles and taking affirmative steps are on the table.
Is it possible for the government to get involved with media regulation without infringing on the First Amendment?
[I]t is possible for the government to help media in ways that don’t run afoul of the First Amendment. In fact it has been happening throughout American history dating back to postal subsidies for newspapers but more recently to government support for public media, the public interest obligations at the FCC and the ownership rules. These are all examples of government policy that has potentially profound impact one way or another.
In 1997, the FCC voted to lift a 32-year ban on the co-ownership of newspapers and TV and radio stations in the top 20 markets, with a few rules companies would need to abide by. But the decision was tied up in courts.
The FCC’s Media Bureau will hold a Media Ownership Workshop In Columbia, South Carolina on Feb. 23rd to review the rule again. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the Commission to review its ownership rules every four years and “determine whether any of such rules are necessary in the public interest as the result of competition.” Under Section 202(h), the Commission “shall repeal or modify any regulation it determines to be no longer in the public interest.”
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