By paulgillin | December 19, 2007 - 10:37 pm - Posted in BusinessModel, NewMedia, Newspapers

In a ruling that is (thank God) likely to be overturned by Congress, the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to eliminate long-standing rules that prohibited media companies from owning broadcast and newspaper outlets in the same market.

Supporters cited the dire state of the newspaper industry as one of the reasons for loosening the anti-monopoly rules. “Newspapers are struggling,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a quote published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. If the layoffs were to continue, “we would be less informed.'”

It’s hard to believe anyone is less informed today than they were five years ago, before the explosion of new media outlets and online publishing made news cheap and plentiful. I suppose that if you get all your news from newspapers and broadcast outlets, then you’re potentially less well-informed today, but who on earth relies solely on those outlets for information? Other than the chairman of the FCC, that is.

News wonks may remember the joint operating agreements of the late 1970s that permitted newspapers that were on life support in smallish markets like Detroit to remain viable long after the market had already rendered its opinion on their value. These deals were supposedly struck in the public interest, but what they really did was enable poorly managed marginal newspapers to endure as subsidiaries of equally poorly managed monopolies. The difference was that in the 1970s you could make a legitimate argument that the public interest was served by maintaining at least an illusion of choice. Today people are overwhelmed by choice. The FCC’s action merely attempts to give media companies more time to avoid facing the realities of a competitive market.

Let’s hope Congress acts quickly to put an end to this follow. In the meantime, read more:

FCC’s Contested Cross-Ownership Rule Set for Vote – Washington Post

FCC wrapping a big package for media conglomerates – The Denver Post

FCC relaxes rules on media ownership – Atlanta Journal-Constitution




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