Steps forward — and back — at the FCC

Steps forward -- and back -- at the FCC


Some good things are happening at the Federal Communications Commission. Earlier this month, the FCC put the brakes on a proposed deal that would have allowed Sinclair — one of America’s biggest media monopolists — to use a quirk in media ownership rule to snatch up several local television stations..

Then last week, Chairman Tom Wheeler gave us all an early holiday present by shelving his predecessor’s regressive plan to make it easier for tycoons to gobble up even more media outlets. That daffy proposal would have allowed Rupert Murdoch to buy up the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Hartford Courant, and other important daily papers. So far, so good.

Now, unfortunately, comes word the Commission’s is set to approve a $5 billion pair of mergers. The Gannett Company’s bid would claim Belo Corporation’s 19 stations while in a separate transaction the Tribune Company would add Local TV’s 19 stations to its horde. The FCC is letting these mergers go forward, even though they exploit some of the same loopholes that were part of the Sinclair deal. Worse yet, the Commissioner’s aren’t even voting up or down on the issue. Instead, the FCC’s media bureau approved it internally.

We know that media monopolization results in decreased local coverage, less investigative journalism, and more reporter layoffs through ‘redundancies.’ None of this serves the public interest.

Here’s what former FCC Commissioner and Special Adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative Michael Copps had to say:

“I thought this promising new Commission might hold back on green-lighting more mergers and acquisitions while it studied the damage consolidation has done to local media and diversity of voices. I thought that is why it decided to re-do the flawed ownership item just last week. Looks like I may have thought wrong. On top of that, they are letting the bureau decide issues the Commissioners themselves ought to be deciding. You can run, but you can’t hide on this issue.”

For the latest on our Media and Democracy efforts stay tuned to @coppsm and @ttoboyle.

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