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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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November 13, 2007 3:37 PM

The Great Compromiser

Posted by Ryan Blethen

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is trying to look like the great compromiser. His proposal to allow a company to own a newspaper, television station, and radio station in the same market is much more narrow than what the FCC approved in 2003. The narrow approach does not mean Martin's proposal is any better than former Chairman Michael Powell's of 2003.

Martin's plan would allow for cross-ownership in the top 20 media markets, and would not allow for a merger if a television station is ranked in the top four in a market. The proposal does seem to leave wiggle room for cross ownership outside the country's largest media markets. The proposal allows the commission to make exceptions for companies that do not meet the seemingly limiting criteria.

Martin appears to be using his tough stance on cable to soften Congress on his wanting to lift the cross ownership ban. The New York Times had a page 1 story Saturday about Martin taking it to the cable companies, and pushing issues such as a la carte, and limiting cable companies access to no more than 30 percent of a market.

His offer of cable for cross ownership is flawed. The two are not related. It does not matter what shows are available, or what percentage of the market a cable company can reach for a newspaper to stay viable.

Congress should not swallow Martin's bait, neither should the other four FCC commissioners.

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