US watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission, is to revisit the thorny subject of media ownership.

The review, two years after the commission's attempt to craft looser rules was dismissed by a federal court [WAMN: 25-Jun-04], will spark a new debate on consolidation and its impact on news diversity.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin says the review is a "topic of vital importance to our democracy" and adds that his agency should "take into account the competitive realities of the media marketplace while also ensuring the promotion of the important goals of localism and diversity".

At stake is the issue of how many television and radio stations a company can own and whether they can control newspapers together with broadcast media.

Those in favour of increased cross media ownership argue that combining the resources of newspapers and TV stations provides better local news to consumers. Opponents say it gives the companies too much sway over local events and opinions.

The FCC will take comments on media ownership for four months. It will also study how consumers get their news, the impact of local ownership, minority participation in ownership and other factors before proposing any new rules.

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional information by WARC staff