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Glenn Halbrooks

Newspapers Hope the FCC Changes Cross Ownership Rules

By January 14, 2013

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Normally, you wouldn't think the newspaper industry would care much about the actions of the Federal Communications Commission, the government agency which oversees TV and radio stations. But some in the newspaper industry hope the FCC will throw them a lifeline through a change in cross ownership rules.

A photo of a man selling newspapers at a newsstand
Could the FCC provide a solution to the newspaper industry's uncertain future?
Photo © Getty Images
The Newspaper Association of America wants the FCC to allow a company that owns radio or TV stations in a local DMA to be allowed to buy the local newspaper and vice versa. Right now, such a purchase is forbidden under FCC rules enacted in 1975.

The NAA says such cross ownership would increase the quality of local news reporting. It's likely there are also financial considerations in its position.

A combination of a TV station and newspaper would allow some sales and reporting functions to be merged. A single sales team could convince local businesses to buy ads in the paper and on TV. A news crew could be sent to a story to report for both the paper and the TV station, plus their websites.

While a cross ownership rule change might provide a solution to many newspapers' financial woes, not everyone thinks it's a good idea. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont says it's a bad recipe for greater media consolidation, with more power in the hands of fewer companies.

Sanders says 90% of media is controlled by six companies. He contends that instead of being a lifeline for the newspaper industry, relaxing cross ownership rules would simply mean less local control, fewer viewpoints and less diversity.

The Washington Post counters that opposition by noting that in the first six months of 2012, Google collected more advertising dollars than all U.S. newspapers and magazines combined. So maybe its the giants of online media that should be watched more closely for their influence on the industry.

The FCC could make a change this year. Be watching to see how newspapers align themselves with broadcasters, which had long been considered their foes.

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