FCC: Media Consolidation in November

coppshi_1.jpg Last year the FCC rushed through approval of the AT&T-Bellsouth merger at the last minute in December before the new Congress was convened in January. This year the rush is on reducing ownership of the majority of media in the U.S. from 50 owners to 5 in the past two decades wasn’t enough already.
The Federal Communications Commission is responding to critics’ complaints that the agency isn’t giving them enough time to examine the scientific studies prepared for the agency’s media ownership review.

The FCC’s Media Bureau today extended the deadline for comment by three weeks, citing the request of Free Press, Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America.

Nearing the end of its examination of media ownership rules, the FCC on July 31 released 10 studies of various issues of media consolidation and indicated they could help form the basis of any rule changes. The studies included examinations of the impact of consolidation on news content, opinion, advertising and programming and also looked at minority ownership trends.

FCC Extends Deadline for Comments on Media Ownership Studies, By Ira Teinowitz, TV Week, September 28, 2007

Various groups complained, so the FCC made an extension:
The FCC said comments that were to have been filed by Oct. 1 now may be filed through Oct. 22, with responses now due by Nov. 1.
That’s right: three more weeks to study an issue that will affect news, politics, government, and, well, basically everything for the indefinite future. Or, to be more specific, to study studies picked by the FCC.

Some observers are relatively confident of concessions, apparently not taking into account that some previous concessions have already fallen by the wayside:

This has given FCC Commissioners who are wary of increased consolidation a chance to address the issue. Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps expressed concern about the Wall Street Journal deal when he was in Chicago earlier this year for the YearlyKos convention, and he recently told the WSJ that he has serious reservations about all three deals. If the issues break down along party lines, as they often do, Copps will be in no position to stop the buyouts, though he might be able to wring concessions from the purchasers. He and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein used the same strategy in the AT&T/BellSouth merger to demand (and get) real concessions from the company, such as a voluntary guarantee of network neutrality for several years and low-priced (and low-speed) DSL service.

&mdash: Lack of media diversity ownership slammed on the eve of more consolidation, By Nate Anderson, ars technica, October 04, 2007 – 07:58AM CT

Meanwhile, AT&T has already reneged on that low-priced DSL service, and the FCC has shortened the time limit on another. Plus the “voluntary guarantee of net neutrality” was only good until 2008 anyway, while the merger is good until death do them part.

As of this writing, no further public hearings have been scheduled by the FCC, although rumor has it that there will be one in Seattle on 2 November.

Recently I heard a story, also from a highly placed FCC source, about his surprise when hundreds of people showed up in DC in 2003 for a hearing on media consolidation. He asked them, “How did you even hear about this?”

They answered, “From the BBC.”

Yet there are questions as to whether media consolidation in the U.S. is bad?