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FCC Based Lax Media Ownership Rules on Faulty Data, New Survey Finds

Thursday, January 29, 2004
Mark Cooper, CFA, (301) 384-2204
Susan Herold, CU, (202) 462-6262

New Media Usage Survey Shows FCC Based Media Ownership Rules on Faulty Information
Newspapers Twice as Important Source for Local News than FCC Found

(Washington, D.C.) — A new national survey of where people turn for local news reveals newspapers are more than twice as important a source than the Federal Communications Commission determined when it relaxed its media ownership rules, dramatically illustrating the FCC’s irrational basis for allowing more media mergers in local markets.
“The findings of the national random sample survey lend significant support to consumer groups’ legal challenge to the rules,” said Mark Cooper, director of research for Consumer Federation of America.
Consumers Union and CFA have intervened in the legal challenge to the FCC’s rules, claiming the Commission has no rational basis for allowing mergers between local TV stations and newspapers in 90 percent of local markets. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case Feb. 11 in Philadelphia.
* In developing its ownership rules, the FCC gave newspapers a weight of 29 percent in its diversity index. But the survey results show newspapers are actually the most important and frequent source of local news for approximately 61 percent of the survey respondents.
* The FCC dramatically overweighted the importance of the Internet and radio, giving them a combined weight of 37 percent, but the survey results show that the Internet and radio are the most frequent and important source of local information for only 10 percent of the respondents.
“Since newspapers are a much more important source for local news than the FCC gives them credit for, and TV is the second most important source, mergers between these two effectively eliminate diversity of viewpoints and competition of ideas in our local media, which is exactly what the FCC is supposed to protect,” said Gene Kimmelman, CU senior policy director. “The public believes by a four-to-one-margin (58% to 15%) that mergers between newspapers and TV stations would reduce editorial diversity, so why didn’t the FCC care what matters to people?”
Adds Cooper: “The FCC based its new rules on information that is just plain wrong, and as a result, we can expect to see a wave of mergers and acquisitions that will spell an end to independence and localism in our media. The FCC must go back and rewrite these rules based on reality, not myth, and protect diversity in our media.”
This telephone survey was conducted January 15-18 among 1,011 adults with a margin of error of +/- 2 to 4 percent.
To view the full report on the media usage survey, click here.