NAA STRONGLY OPPOSES HOLLINGS CROSS-OWNERSHIP BILL
Legislation would unjustly impose punitive regulations on newspaper industry
Vienna, Va. - Legislation that would impose more unneeded and unwarranted regulations on a newspaper industry already burdened by the 25-year-old yoke of cross-ownership restrictions was strongly denounced by the Newspaper Association of America. The Association believes that the bill unjustly heaps additional and punitive regulations on the newspaper industry.
"This bill has no connection to the realities imposed by today’s mass media marketplace and the competitive forces present in every local market. It is a sad vestige of the past, just like the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule itself. There is no reasoned basis for the government to make it harder for newspapers to compete against the plethora of media available in print, over the air and via the Internet in every city and town in the country," said NAA President and CEO John F. Sturm.
"While other mass media find themselves subject to less government regulation, Sen. Hollings deems it appropriate to propose restrictions to deny the local newspaper’s access to the local market. There is not now, nor has there ever been, any showing of harm, anti-competitive behavior or abuse associated with newspaper ownership of broadcast properties in the same market," Sturm said.
The bill, S. 1189, was introduced by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), chairman of the Commerce Committee. The legislation calls for an immediate review by the Federal Communications Commission of existing cross-owned properties, which have been granted permanent or temporary waivers. It also would require broadcasters who acquire newspapers in the same market to divest either the broadcast station or newspaper within six months.
"It seems somewhat specious to argue that so-called media consolidation is a threat to the vibrant exchange of information," Sturm added. "First, eliminating the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban will simply level the local playing field, which already has been opened to broadcasters for ownership of multiple stations. Second, if localism and local news are important in a community - as most believe they are - the best way to assure the continuation of both is to allow the local newspaper to own local broadcast outlets."
The bill also mandates that any changes the FCC adopts to any of its broadcast regulations may not go into effect for 18 months after they are adopted. "This requirement, if enacted, flies in the face of traditional and existing procedures by which agencies develop rules and regulations," Sturm pointed out.