JOINT NEWS RELEASE
AFTRA, CWA Urge Full Review of Proposed Revisions to
Newspaper-Broadcast Ownership Rule
Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2007)—The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Communications Workers of America called on the Federal Communications Commission to provide for a full review process of the comments made to proposed revisions to the newspaper-broadcast ownership rule, changes proposed by Chairman Kevin Martin.
In a filing submitted today to the FCC, the two unions stressed that ensuring a diverse media is too important to rush to judgment in crafting changes in existing media ownership limits. They called for a procedure that includes publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register with a 90-day comment period, as well as an open process to resolve issues of localism and women’s and minority ownership of broadcast media.
AFTRA and CWA continue to support the current newspaper-broadcast ownership rule as the best means to serve the public interest, the unions said. However, “we do believe that the Chairman’s proposal can serve as a starting point in crafting strong safeguards to promote media diversity, competition, and localism…but one that must be strengthened significantly to ensure that any permitted combinations would not violate the FCC’s policy goals of diversity, competition and localism,” the unions said.
AFTRA and CWA represent more than 170,000 media industry employees, from journalists and news anchors to broadcasters, performers, and recording artists. These workers know that “the relaxation of media ownership rules, absent strong safeguards, would permit further consolidation and concentration of ownership into fewer hands,” the unions said.
The factors and guidelines proposed for consideration of whether to permit a newspaper-broadcast combination in the same market are too broad and need additional requirements to ensure that diversity and editorial independence are maintained, AFTRA and CWA said.
For example, one of these factors—whether each affected media outlet in the combination will exercise its own independent news judgment—can only be achieved if any merged newspaper-broadcast operation in the same market maintains separate newsroom and editorial staff, the unions said.
Because the stakes are so high, the Commission must take this opportunity to get it right and set “structural ownership limits that will preserve diversity, competition and local identity,” they said. Any changes must protect the public interest and should be reviewed through a full and open process, CWA and AFTRA added.