Time appears to be running out for the FCC’s effort to promote diversity in local media. A bipartisan bill introduced today would overturn the agency’s ban on allowing one company to own TV and radio stations as well as a daily newspaper in the same market.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) served up the proposal that within a year after its passage would strip the FCC rule of its “force or effect.”
The move is a response to the FCC’s 3-2 vote along partisan lines in August to maintain the ban adopted in 1975, with an exception that allowed TV station owners to invest in “failed or failing newspapers.” The FCC has granted several waivers to the cross-ownership restriction, including in New York, where it allowed Rupert Murdoch to control the New York Post as well as the flagship Fox-owned station.
The FCC said in June that its analysis found that the ownership restriction remained “necessary in the public interest” to ensure that one entity would not dominate local news and debate — but with “some targeted modifications.”
GOP members and industry groups attacked the decision. It appeared destined to be overturned after Donald Trump becomes president, giving Republicans control of the FCC.
Walden, slated to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the rule a “relic of the disco era.” Yarmuth added that enabling local media to merge would “protect legitimate sources of news.”
National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith applauded the proposal saying that “radio and television broadcasters have been saddled with archaic regulations preventing them from investing in newspaper ownership. Striking this cross-ownership ban would save journalism jobs, create more investigative reporting and provide communities with greater local news.”