DECEMBER 3, 2001
Vienna, Va. — The time has come for the Federal Communications Commission to repeal the long outdated, discriminatory and counterproductive newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban, stated the Newspaper Association of America in comments filed with the FCC today.
"When this ban was adopted more than 25 years ago, the media market of today could scarcely have been imagined," explained NAA President and CEO John F. Sturm. "Cable television; national, weekly and alternative newspapers; the sheer number of local broadcast stations and, of course, the Web, satellite TV services and other media made possible by new technologies have exploded on the media scene. These established and thriving media have completely transformed how people get their news and information."
Sturm also pointed out that the FCC has relaxed broadcast-ownership rules for nearly every other type of media company, but maintains the ban for newspapers, raising First Amendment concerns. "We believe the FCC's deregulation of other media over the years — with only newspaper publishers excluded — leaves the newspaper-broadcast ban exposed as unconstitutional in today's First Amendment climate," he said.
"There is ample evidence demonstrating that newspaper-broadcast combinations are in the public interest. Approximately 41 markets are jointly operating, many for more than 25 years, and the resulting synergies have benefited not only themselves, but also the public as well," Sturm added. "In markets of all sizes, these operations provide local, in-depth, diverse information to a much broader audience in a variety of different media. The markets in which these cross-owned properties exist have seen an increase in the number of voices in the market."
As mandated by Congress the burden is on the FCC to demonstrate the need for continuing this restriction, Sturm pointed out, adding that it must repeal any ownership rule made superfluous by marketplace competition. "Clearly, the factual underpinnings of this ban that were questionable at the outset are clearly no longer valid 25 years later in a radically different marketplace," Sturm said, noting that administrative law requires the rule to be repealed in such circumstances.
NAA is a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. Most NAA members are daily newspapers, accounting for 87 percent of the U.S. daily circulation. Headquartered in Tyson's Corner (Vienna, Va.), the Association focuses on six key strategic priorities that affect the newspaper industry collectively: marketing, public policy, diversity, industry development, newspaper operations and readership. See also http://www.naa.org/.