During FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s re-nomination hearing, Senator says commission has surpressed a 2004 study that showed locally-owned TV stations air more local news. Martin sounds the death knell for multicast must carry at the FCC.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) used FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s re-nomination hearing this morning to accuse the agency of suppressing a two-year-old agency study that she said finds that locally-owned TV stations produce more local news.
“I think there’s work that has been done and it has been stifled,” Boxer told Martin during questioning before the Senate Commerce Committee. “And I don’t know who stifled it.”
Boxer said that she had obtained (and would submit into the hearing record) a “draft report” by FCC staff dated June 17, 2004—”Do Local Owners Do More Localism? Some Evidence from Local Broadcast News.”
According to the study, Boxer said, locally owned stations produced five-and-a-half minutes more local news for each half-hour newscast, including more than three minutes of “on-location news.”
She then quoted a portion of the study: “In the course of a year, this means locally-owned stations produce 33 more hours of regional news—news that’s directly relevant and important to viewers.”
“Now this is not national security, for god’s sake,” Boxer said. “This is important information about issues that are key to the peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦. So, I don’t understand who deep-sixed this thing. I’m going to get to the bottom of it and find out if any commissioners saw this.”
Martin said that he had never seen the study, noting that he was not chairman at the time the study was dated.
Martin promised Boxer that he would read the study and make sure that it is incorporated into a long overdue localism study that Martin predecessor, Michael Powell, had initiated.
Boxer and other Democrats on the Commerce Committee oppose Martin’s intention to ease local ownership rules and permit greater media concentration.
Martin also confirmed that multicast must carry was dead at the agency. Responding to a question from Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Martin said he had no intention of mandating must carry “because I don’t think there is a majority of the commissioners who end up supporting that.”
Martin apparently thought he had a majority last spring. After the President appointed Robert McDowell, another Republican, to the vacant fifth FCC seat, Martin put must carry on the FCC open-meeting agenda. But just days prior to the meeting, Martin withdrew the item for the agenda. McDowell, it turned out, was not the third vote he needed to proceed.