Speaking to at the Newspaper Association of America annual convention April 4, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said that as the commission revisits cross-ownership, it must take into account that newspaper/broadcast combinations “may result in a significant increase in the production of local news and current affairs.”
During his remarks, Martin recounted the long history of FCC prohibitions on allowing a local newspaper to own a broadcast outlet in its community and pointed out that market conditions have changed dramatically since the cross-ownership rule was adopted in 1975.
According to the chairman, at lease 300 daily newspapers have ceased publication since then, and newspaper circulation has experienced a steady decline for a decade. Perhaps most worrisome are cuts in newsroom staffs tied to declining financial performance, he said.
“For instance, the number of people working in the newsrooms of U.S. daily newspapers dropped 4.1 percent between 2001 and 2005,” he said. “In 2005 alone, newspapers announced layoffs and buyouts of over 700 news people. Most of these cuts occurred at large metropolitan papers, and more are expected this year.”
Despite support to modify the cross-ownership rule among past chairman and a decade of promises to rectify the situation, newspaper/broadcast combinations remain off limits in the same community. “The commission needs once again to try to update our rules to account for the dramatically changed media landscape,” he said.
The FCC must take into account that allowing cross-ownership may help “forestall the erosion in local news coverage” by allowing companies to cut down on duplicative costs and “amortize their news products across multiple platforms,” he said.
To read Martin’s remarks in their entirety, visit http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-264774A1.pdf.