FCC to Probe Studies’ Fate

WASHINGTON Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is launching an internal probe of what happened to two studies of media consolidation the agency kept from the public.

The action was disclosed this week in a letter from Martin to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who recently has revealed two internal FCC studies.

Boxer last week said a 2004 study that concluded local station ownership boosts the amount of local TV news had been “stifled,” and in a Monday letter to Martin she said it appeared the FCC had “shelved” its own 2003 study that found increasing concentration in radio ownership.

“I am growing more and more concerned,” Boxer wrote. She asked Martin “to examine whether it was then or is now the practice of the FCC to suppress facts that are contrary to a desired outcome.”

The FCC voted in 2003 to loosen limits on media ownership. The issue is drawing attention in part because the FCC is again drafting new ownership rules following a court rejection of its earlier decision.

Martin, who became chairman in early 2005, said in his letter that he had seen neither study. “I too am concerned about what happened to these two draft reports,” Martin wrote. “I have asked the inspector general of the FCC to conduct an investigation into what happened to these draft documents.”

In a separate development on Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee sent Martin’s nomination for a second term on to the full Senate. No vote total was disclosed after senators voted in an unusual procedure that saw them casting votes during breaks from floor debate.