Archive | January, 2003

Responding to the Oligopolistic Desires of Local Media Owners

As promised on the radio show, I now have posted the comments that Nexstar and Sinclair filed with the FCC on the media ownership review docket. Both companies own TV stations in the Champaign-Decatur-Springfield, IL DMA (where the ‘geek is located), in addition to owning stations nationwide.

Nexstar owns Champaign CBS affiliate WCIA Ch. 3 and Springfield UPN affiliate WCFN. Sinclair owns Champaign NBC affiliate WICD ch. 15 and Springfield NBC affiliate WICS ch. 20. Sinclair is the bigger company that owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 63 television stations in 40 markets, reaching 25% of the national market.

What’s most telling about these companies’ comments is that both encourage the FCC to drop the Newspaper-Television cross-ownership rule and the local-telelvision ownership/duopoloy rule. Here are definitions of these rules, thanks to the Media Access Project:

The “Newspaper-Broadcast Ownership” Rule:
The newspaper broadcast cross ownership rule prohibits a newspaper from owning a broadcast station in the same local area and vice versa. The FCC adopted this rule in 1975. The Supreme Court upheld the rule against constitutional attack in a case called NCCB v. FCC.. At the time the FCC adopted the rule, it allowed many existing newspaper-broadcast combinations to keep their combinations. Many of these “grandfathered” combinations continue to exist today.

Local Television Ownership Rules:
This rule limits ownership to two television stations in same market only if that market has 8 independent voices, and, one of the two stations is not among the top four stations in that market. Sometimes this rule is referred to as the “duopoly” rule.

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Testify! (to the FCC)

Radio activist extrordinaire Don Shellhardt relays how to submit your testimony to the FCC for the Commission’s public hearing on media ownership to be held in Richmond, VA: As noted elsewhere on this Message, the FCC has just announced Field Hearings in Richmond on whether the FCC should remove the remaining legal limits on how […]

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Senate Commerce Committee to Focus on Media Ownership

When the FCC appeared in front of the Senate Commerce Committee a couple weeks ago the focus was primarily on telecomm and competition in the phone/Internet biz. But the issue of ownership in the mass media nonetheless got brought up by several Senators and was therefore addressed by the five commissioners.

Now, the Commerce Committee is going to hold a hearing specifically on the issue of media ownership. From a Commerce Committee press release:

Washington, DC – Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced the following
hearing schedule for next week:

* Media Ownership – Radio Industry: Full Committee hearing scheduled for
Thursday, January 30, at 9:30 a.m. in room 253 of the Russell Senate
Office Building. This hearing is first in a series of hearings on
media ownership. Members will examine consolidation in the radio
industry. McCain will preside. Witnesses will be announced at a later

This hearing should give some more insight into how the Congress is viewing the issue and how likely that it may step in to bolster or further erode media ownership rules.

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Why Broadband’s so Goddamn expensive

Or, why it isn’t cheaper. The Mercury News’ Dan Gillmor reports that competition in telecomm, especially broadband internet, hasn’t fully materialized, allowing the incumbent providers — primarily regional Bells — to monopolize and keep rates jacked.

He also notes the impending threats — that your broadband provider might more seriously constrict and restrict the content and data you have access to, either due to contract (say, giving news exclusivity to ABC/Disney) or by threat (pulling the plug on mp3 downloads).

Gillmor’s one of the more inquisitive tech business reporters out there, who’s willing to stick his neck out and ask these questions.

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