FCC to Hold Public Hearing on Media Ownership Rules

Federal regulators are planning a hearing in February to get public opinion on a broad government review of rules that limit the ownership of newspapers and radio and television stations.

Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said the hearing in Richmond, Va. will supplement the agency's 12 recent studies on media ownership issues.

"The commission is committed to developing a set of media ownership rules that are internally consistent, tailored to the modern media marketplace and empirically justified," Powell said Wednesday.

The FCC said details of the hearing would be released later.

The agency is studying whether current ownership restrictions are appropriate in a market altered by the growth of the Internet, satellite broadcasts and cable television. In September, the agency began reviewing how ownership rules affect competition, advertising, local news outlets and the diversity of voices providing news and information.

Media companies say outdated regulations restrict their ability to grow and stay competitive. However, critics warn that mergers resulting from looser rules could leave a few huge companies in control of what people watch, hear and read.

Analysts say Powell and the two other Republicans on the five-member commission are intent on loosening regulations, paving the way for more mergers.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps for months has called for nationwide hearings to discuss the media ownership review. Copps was the only Democrat on the panel for more than a year until Jonathan Adelstein was sworn in Tuesday.

The FCC has said it expects the review and any potential changes to the rules to be completed by spring.