Bill Moyers, who has devoted considerable attention on his PBS show to media consolidation, says that a current FCC plan to relax media ownership rules would be a gift to Rupert Murdoch.
He writes, "Despite Fox News' moonlighting as the propaganda ministry of the Republican Party, President Obama's team may be making it possible for Sir Rupert to increase his power, perversely rewarding the man who did his best to make sure Barack Obama didn't have a second term. The Federal Communications Commission could be preparing him one big Christmas present, the kind of gift that keeps on giving -- unless we all get together and do something about it.
"All indications are that Murdoch has his eye on two of the last remaining big newspapers in America -- the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, each owned by the now bankrupt Tribune Company. He could add one or both to his impressive portfolio, but even though the media mogul is splitting News Corp into two separately traded companies -- one for its print entities, the other for TV and film -- he would still come under current rules restricting media companies from owning newspapers and TV and radio stations in the same town. However, the FCC may be planning to suspend those rules, paving the way for Murdoch's takeover of either of the two papers."
Yet FCC officials say that the proposed changes will actually prevent Murdoch from owning stations and the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.They would allow ownership of a newspaper and TV station in the same market, but those in the Top 20 markets will have a list of hurdles before the agency allows a waiver.
Nevertheless, they are delaying a vote until at least next month to allow time for more comment on a report on the low rate of minority and women media ownership of radio and TV stations, as well as other media. (My story here.) That actually may give public interest groups opposed to the changes more time to mount an offense, as Free Press has vowed to file a lawsuit if the proposed changes go forward.