Newspaper Magnate Singleton, Owns Press-Telegram & L.A. Newspaper Group (and other papers nationally), Tells U.S. Senate Committee: "We...Print News & We'd Like To Be Able To Broadcast It"
Urges ending FCC rule on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership
(May 13, 2003) -- With the FCC poised to loosen a rule limiting TV and radio station ownership by newspaper publishers ("cross-ownership"), the Denver-based publisher of fifty daily newspapers -- including the LB Press-Telegram -- told a U.S. Senate Committee today:
"I can't talk very much today about the bikini clad women on TV. We just print news, and we'd like to be able to broadcast it."
William Dean Singleton, Vice Chairman & CEO of MediaNews Group (publisher of 50 daily newspapers and 121 non-dailies) cited what he called "compelling reasons for eliminating the FCC’s long outdated and counterproductive ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership."
Noting that apart from newspaper/broadcast combinations "grandfathered" when the rule was adopted, or in four other cases granted waivers, Mr. Singleton said, "Only newspapers have been completely barred from participating in the broadcast markets of their local communities."
In recent years, Mr. Singleton assembled the "Los Angeles Newspaper Group" by serially acquiring the Daily News (Woodland Hills), Pasadena Star News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Whittier Daily News along with the PT locally and three inland empire outlets.
The MediaNews Group web site states in part, "In anticipation of changes in the regulations governing the ownership of newspapers, radio and television, we own a television station, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, AK, and we also operate radio stations in Texas."
In written testimony submitted to the Committee, Mr. Singleton said, "Newspapers will add new resources to struggling television and radio enterprises, and those broadcast outlets will strengthen newspapers as the number of media choices continue to explode in a changing media environment." He added:
The fact is that the communications world -- and the media alternatives available to our
citizens -- has undergone a vast transformation since the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban was adopted over a quarter of a century ago...Now omnipresent cable and satellite television services were still in their infancy in 1975, and the Internet -- with its vast potential for delivering news and information -- was non-existent when the newspaper/broadcast rule was adopted. Traditional media thus have been bombarded with a host of new, multi-media rivals in recent years.
In this vastly diverse, competitive, and ever-growing environment, the ban on cross-ownership of daily newspapers and broadcast outlets plainly is not needed. Quite to the contrary, the extensive record before the agency [the FCC] demonstrates beyond question that the prohibition frustrates the achievement of significant and vitally needed operating efficiencies and, most importantly, deprives the public of enhanced local news and other new and innovative informational services.
Mr. Singleton was part of a witness panel comprised of two newspaper publishers and two broadcasters. As a counter-point to Mr. Singleton's views, Frank Blethen, publisher of the Seattle Times (and other papers) opposed easing restrictions on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership.
Mr. Blethen's written testimony stated in part, "Media concentration and Wall Street ownership has turned the watchdog into a lapdog. It has always been that the most serious problem in American journalism is not what we cover, but what we don’t cover. When the watchdog stops barking we are in trouble...[C]orporate entities that financially gain from monopolization now control most of what we read, see and hear. This is our future if you permit repeal of the cross ownership ban and other FCC restrictions on monopolization."
Two broadcasters, Mel Karmazin (President/CEO Viacom) and Jim Goodmon (President/CEO Capitol Broadcasting Co.) presented views, pro and con respectively, on easing cross-ownership restrictions.
The U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, chaired by Sen. John McCain (R., AZ), heard roughly two and half hours of testimony and engaged in colloquy on issues related to media ownership, particularly the TV broadcast ownership rules currently being reviewed by the FCC.