The debate over the proposed relaxation of America’s media ownership laws is heating up, with TV networks accused of producing “sewage” in the wake of consolidation.

Last week saw the Federal Communications Commission’s first and only official hearing on the subject, held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Nearly all ownership rules are being reviewed, with big media firms lobbying strongly in favour of deregulation.

Arguing against relaxation, L Brent Bozell III, president of the Parents Television Council, claimed a decline in competition had dragged down standards on network TV, the content of which he denounced as “raw sewage”.

Other opponents included the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, which demanded closer inspection of effects on the ad market should a company gain over 40% of revenues (or two companies over 60% between them) in any particular market.

These witnesses were supported by members of the audience who claimed consolidation has already hindered attempts to buy space for anti-war or environmental ads.

On the other side of the debate, Bear Stearns & Co analyst Victor B Miller argued that the rise in competition to broadcast networks meant ownership laws could be relaxed.

His sentiments were echoed by John F Sturm, president/ceo of the Newspaper Association of America, who contended that there is no longer any need to prevent newspapers owning broadcasters in the same market.

In addition, NBC Television Stations president Jay Ireland claimed the current ban on TV firms reaching more than 35% of households is hindering the network’s efforts to bolster its Spanish-language subsidiary Telemundo.

Although the public debate was the only one planned by the FCC, commissioner Michael Copps plans to hold his own hearings on the subject [WAMN: 07-Feb-03].

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff