As expected, the FCC agreed today to ever so barely relax media ownership rules
. While we rarely find FCC Chair Kevin Martin's arguments convincing, on this one he's correct -- and we still can't figure out why people are so up in arms. The details show that it's an incredibly minor change
to the rules. In the top 20 media markets, newspapers can merge with a single radio or TV station -- but not if that TV station is one of the top 4 stations in that market. In other words, newspapers who are struggling to get beyond
just being newspapers can finally expand into other media areas. I can't understand why people are freaked out about this. At best, a newspaper can now own a tiny radio or TV station. The fear of only one point of view getting through is totally laughable for a variety of reasons. First, there are more sources of media than ever before in history -- by a long shot. To think that a single TV station or newspaper can dominate the conversation is laughable. Second, since it can't involve a top 4 TV station, it's hard to believe that this new entity will have all that much dominance in the market. There seems to be nothing wrong with this proposal. Of course, don't expect this to go anywhere. Thanks to misleading hysteria over the issue, the Senate quickly stepped in to block the FCC's ruling
, at least for the time being.
However, in another decision that doesn't make much sense at all, the FCC did vote to cap cable growth
. As we've pointed out in the past, the rationale for this makes almost no sense, and will likely decrease choice of providers
in many regions. With media ownership, you're talking about a highly competitive market. With things like cable, you are not -- so it makes very little sense for the FCC to cap cable's growth -- except as a favor
to Kevin Martin's friends in the telcos.