FCC delays vote on media ownership rules

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski said on Tuesday that he will postpone a vote to revise media ownership regulations so that a nonprofit group can study the potential impact on women and racial minorities.

Genachowski said it will take the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council "several weeks" to complete the study on minority ownership, after which the commission will ask for public input on the findings. 

"In this heavily-litigated area where a strong record is particularly important, I believe this is a sensible approach to moving forward and resolving the issues raised in this proceeding," Genachowski said in a statement.

Robert McDowell, a Republican FCC commissioner, said he hopes the FCC will hold a vote by this summer. He said it is "prudent" for the commission to wait for the study but that the agency should move swiftly to scrap unnecessary regulations.

"Accordingly, it is my hope that this most recent pause in our progress on this front is our last," McDowell said.

Genachowski issued a proposal at the end of last year that would loosen certain media ownership restrictions, but the proposal sparked an outcry from liberal lawmakers, who warned it could limit access to diverse media voices. The two Republican FCC commissioners argued the proposal didn't go far enough to scrap outdated regulations.

Genachowski's proposal would relax regulations that prohibit a single company from owning a TV broadcast station and a newspaper in a single top market. The proposal would strengthen rules on consolidation in smaller markets. The order would also eliminate bans on newspaper-radio and TV-radio cross-ownership.

The FCC is required to review its media ownership rules every four years. The last review was completed in 2008.

In an email, a senior commission official said that waiting for the study "is a strategy to move towards a successful vote and strengthen the commission’s position in court.”