FCC drops plan to loosen media ownership rules

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has withdrawn a proposal to loosen media ownership restrictions, an agency official said Tuesday.

The proposal was first put forward more than a year ago by Wheeler's predecessor, Julius Genachowski. 

The measure would have relaxed regulations that prohibit a single company from owning a TV broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market. The order would have also eliminated bans on newspaper-radio and TV-radio cross-ownership.

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The FCC official said Wheeler withdrew the item from circulation on Dec. 6 in order to re-assess the issue and determine his next move.

The FCC is legally required to review its media ownership rules every four years. The commission is already three years behind on completing the 2010 review, which is now expected to be folded into the 2014 review. 

Genachowski had planned to push his measure to relax the regulations before he stepped down earlier this year, but he delayed a vote after facing criticism from liberal lawmakers and advocacy groups. 

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) held a press conference in late 2012 to bash Genachowski's proposal, warning it could lead to more media consolidation and fewer choices for news. 

"I intend to do everything I can to prevent this proposal from going forward," Sanders said at the time.

Genachowski also could have faced opposition from Democratic FCC commissioners.

But supporters of the rule change argued it could have led to much-needed investment into the struggling newspaper industry and would have kept important restrictions in place. 

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