The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, April 18, 2003

June 2, 2003 is the date on which the FCC will decide whether to change the media ownership-limit rules that have been in effect since 1975. Media General's Chairman, J. Stewart Bryan, shared some of his thoughts on how it would affect his company.

Full disclosure: I work at Florida Trend magazine, which is owned by the St. Petersburg Times, which is the chief competition for one of Media General's flagship newspapers, the Tampa Tribune. Got all that?

To sum up, Bryan basically favors abolising the prohibition against one company owning multiple media outlets (television station, radio station, newspaper) in one metro market, but opposes lifting the ban over a company owning more than 35% of the television reach in a market. In other words, the first move would greatly benefit Media General, the second would hurt it.

I thought this was a rather bone-headed example for him to cite:

"So, at that time [in 1975], there was no question that up until that day, the FCC had encouraged newspapers to put TV stations on the air, just like in the 1930s, they had encouraged them to put radio stations on the air. Then all of a sudden, they changed the rules."

Um, yes, dumbass, they did change the rules in 1975. When situations change, you change the rules to ensure a level playing field. In the 1930s, radio was just getting off the ground and wasn't immediately a dominating media format, so having one media sector(newspapers) own and foster the growth of a new medium (broadcasting/radio/television) doesn't create an overwhelming homogenization of format. (The other part of this equation is that back then, even mid-sized cities had at least 2 newspapers to offer competition and some level of diversity.)