FCC Media Ownership Rule Vote Pushed to Next Year

Agency gives critics more time to comment

The Federal Communications Commission's quadrennial review of media ownership rules, already delayed two years, is delayed again. There will be no vote on the rules until early next year, at the earliest.

Under pressure from critics of any weakening of media ownership rules, the FCC agreed to open up a comment period on a related report documenting minority ownership. That report, released last month at the same time chairman Julius Genachowski circulated a draft order loosening media ownership rules, showed that people of color owned just 3.6 percent of TV stations and 8 percent of radio stations.

Stunned by the findings, media interest groups and congressional Dems lashed out at the FCC for for proposing to lift the ban on owning a radio station and newspaper in all markets—and allow TV station and newspaper cross-ownership in the top 20 markets—when the agency's own data showed minority ownership to be dismally low.

Since the media ownership rule vote and the minority ownership report are part of the same proceeding, the vote on the draft media ownership rule will slide until after Jan. 4, 2013, when the final reply comments on the ownership report are due.

What impact more comments will have on the FCC's final media ownership order remains to be seen. In a blog post, FCC media bureau chief Bill Lake indicated the minority ownership data had already been taken into account in the draft order. "As the commission has long recognized, minorities and women own broadcast stations in disproportionately small numbers…These data are part of the record in the quadrennial proceeding and have been considered as we work toward decisions in that proceeding," Lake wrote.

Always controversial, the FCC has received tens of thousands of comments and filings on its congressionally mandated quadrennial review of media ownership rules.