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United Policy Point #5: Support Fair Competition!

In FCC, FTC & DOJ on October 13, 2009 at 12:00 am

We need laws and rules that foster fair competition between media outlets in local media markets.

The high profile bankruptcies, historic revenue declines, diminished market cap and decimated newsrooms have led to all sorts of formal and informal thoughts about “saving newspapers” and “saving journalism.” As a party to several DC group discussions, I’ve certainly heard ideas about heavy-handed government involvement that could have the effect of picking winners and losers.

But some ideas on the corporate formation, bankruptcy and tax fronts are worth considering (ESOPs & L3Cs — not the Cardin non-profit bill! — Prepacks favoring local ownership following divested clusters). And of course, the largest media companies are using the crisis to call for loosening of antitrust laws on both the merger and predatory front. Nashville community papers’ complaint against Gannett is still under review, the DOJ has signaled that they’re not so far inclined to loosen the laws they rarely enforce now, the FTC will begin examining the state of journalism in December and the FCC will begin another full-blown look at Cross-ownership early next year, starting off with workshops early this November.

Recent comments from the White House indicate that the competing ideas could be closer to becoming laws in the not so distant future. FYI, the US Chamber joined with big media and NAA & NAB against us on NBCO, and beyond FCC jurisdiction, they’re also on their side at FTC, DOJ and Congress favoring more consolidation and leverage in local markets, but we might have common ground on the corporate formation, bankruptcy and tax fronts.


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