FCC eyes loosened ownership rules, could save journalism

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The Federal Communications Commission has opened the door to easing media ownership rules that could help save the faltering news industry and even preserve traditional journalism, according to broadcasters pushing for the changes.

"Ownership restrictions, if they were loosened to a degree, would allow good journalism through the broadcast medium and also be helpful to the newspaper industry," said Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters.

The FCC last month began considering relaxing regulations that block a company from owning a TV broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market. The goal of those regulations was to preserve competition and a variety in news.

But Smith said "the ownership rules were designed in the days of 'I Love Lucy,'" and should be changed, especially as the media struggles financially.

He said in an interview on C-SPAN's "The Communicators" program that journalism is in jeopardy as media companies die off, and especially as newspapers cease publishing. There is a "concern over preserving legitimate journalism" that could be aided if richer media properties like TV were able to buy newspapers.

There are foes, however, including Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell who has promised to fight the rules change because she feels it will result in homogenized news in towns where one firm owns the major media outlets.