'Play It Again, Sam,' FCC Boss Urges Newspaper Publishers

05 April 2006

Like the family mutt scratching its recurring itch, Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin has returned to a recurring theme beloved by the FCC's three-strong Republican majority.

Scrapping the current ban on media businesses owning both newspapers and broadcasting outlets in the same city - an ordinance the Bush administration and America's big media owners have repeatedly tried to overturn.

Preaching to the converted, Martin told attendees at the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention in Chicago they should do more to educate the public about the changes that have transformed America's media marketplace since 1975 when the ban was originally imposed.

Pleaded Martin: "We can't take on this process alone. Your job is to educate the public about the changes in the media landscape … a lot has changed since the days of disco and leisure suits."

Shaun Sheehan, vp of government affairs at Tribune Company - which owns newspapers and broadcasting outlets - enthusiastically agreed with Martin, later telling a reporter that the continuing ban on cross-ownership "doesn't make any sense at all … somewhere down the line, the rule has to fall."

Media General and Gannett Company, the world's largest newspaper publisher, are of like mind. Both also own TV companies.

This isn't the FCC's first attempt to overturn to overturn the ban, Martin's predecessor Michael Powell having tried in 2003.

However, after a massive political and consumer backlash, a federal court sent the decision back to the FCC for further consideration. Since when Powell resigned and the itch became dormant.

Until now.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff