I finished up Benton and SSRC’s phone press conference a few minutes ago. There weren’t many questions from the press, which makes me think that there wasn’t much press there. Though, I’m certain there will be obligatory stories in the industry press, probably culled from the press release and a quick phone interview.
While it’s great to get all this hard data on media ownership, I can’t help but think that the FCC, elected officials, and of course, media executives will just ignore the reports as much as the press apparently has.
So I asked this question to the panel: won’t the FCC majority just ignore these results because they contradict their faith?
Former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani — now president of Benton — answered, saying that the Commission cannot simply just ignore studies that have been submitted. But, the second part of her answer was more interesting. She said that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals–the court that struck down the FCC’s last attempt at loosening ownership restrictions–will likely not ignore the reports, especially since they address many of the specific issues and flaws the Court found in the FCC’s reasoning.
So the real audience for these studies is not the FCC, which is bound by political pressure and ideology, but the Court which is supposed to be reviewing whatever the Commission comes up with.
My bet is that the Commission is now busy rewriting its own promised ownership studies to make sure they respond to (and dispute) the reports released by Benton, SSRC and the Media and Democracy Coaltion.