FCC’s Martin Eyes Media Changes

NEW YORK In a move that will surely stir up debate, Federal Communications Commissioner Kevin Martin Tuesday proposed that the Commission change the 32-year-old ban on owning a newspaper and TV or radio station in a single market, but only in the nation’s largest markets.

The rule change is the only one Martin suggested after review of all the media ownership rules, rejecting any changes in the local TV duopoly rule, the local radio ownership rule and the local radio-TV cross ownership rule.

If the full Commission agrees to the amended rule, it could smooth the way for Sam Zell’s bid to take Tribune Co. private.

Citing the troubled newspaper business, Martin’s proposal would allow a newspaper to own one TV station or one radio station, but only in top 20 markets. There must also be eight independently owned and operated media voices in the market and if the transaction involved a TV station, the station cannot be among the top four-ranked stations in the market.

“According to almost every measure, newspapers are struggling. At least 300 daily papers have stopped publishing over the past 30 years,” the FCC said in a statement. “Permitting cross-ownership can preserve the viability of newspapers by allowing them to share their operational costs across multiple media platforms.”