Saturday, August 4, 2007

FCC releases a library of Media Ownership studies

On July 31, the FCC released ten research studies on media ownership. The agency is in the process of reviewing media ownership policies.

Comments may be posted to MB Docket 06-121. The FCC closes this commentary period on October 1st. The commentary filing process is on the FCC's Web site

As obscure as this may seem, a healthy and diverse media is central to the health of American democracy, which depends upon a well-informed citizenry. Columbia Journalism Review maintains a Web site listing the holdings of the major American media companies.

When an overwhelming majority of the media in America is owned by just a handful of companies - and therefore, is captained by just a handful of powerful executives - there should be cause for concern. The largest are The Walt Disney Company, General Electric, News Corporation, Time Warner, Viacom and Sony. Click the company names to view a listing of each company's holdings.

Background:

On June 2, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission relaxed the rules that regulate media ownership in the United States, as follows:


  • National TV Ownership: A single TV broadcast group would be able to reach up to 45% of the national audience, up from 35%; a limit that had been in place since 1941

  • Cross-media Limits: A single media company could own print (newspaper) and broadcast outlets (radio and TV) in the same market; even if the market has 3 or fewer TV stations (by obtaining an FCC waiver)

  • Local Radio Ownership: Depending upon market size, the same media company can own up to eight radio stations in a single market

  • Local TV Multiple Ownership: A single company can own two stations in a market with five stations.

  • Dual Network Ownership: There can be no mergers among the top four national broadcast networks (unchanged from previous rules).


In November, 2003, the White House and US Senate leaders compromised on a TV ownership cap of 39 percent. Two major media companies were already near that level prior to the FCC ruling.

In June, 2004, the US Court of Appeals (Third Circuit) ruled to continue blocking the 2003 ownership changes from taking effect, saying that the FCC had not sufficiently justified its revised numerical limits.

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