September 13, 2001
The role of the news media in providing Americans with critical information is of the utmost importance to our society. Therefore, I welcome the Commission’s intention to take a thorough look at the issue of the cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in local communities.
Broadcast stations and newspapers make up the center of the local marketplace of ideas, a function critical to a democratic society. As competing purveyors of ideas, they have the potential to present diverse viewpoints on issues important to their communities. As the Red Lion Court stated “it is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of that market.”1 In commencing our examination of the Newspaper/Broadcast cross ownership rules today, we must keep in mind the importance to the public interest of preserving diversity in the local marketplace of ideas.
In commencing this proceeding today, we solicit information from all stakeholders. Whether supporting the retention of the Newspaper/Broadcast cross-ownership prohibition or the relaxation or elimination of these rules, it is important that interested parties provide data to the Commission that will help us make an informed decision about the future of these rules. As the Commission considers the effect of our rules on industry, we cannot be left with a paucity of hard information about these industries. I have discussed with Chairman Powell the importance of collecting and compiling databases of information about the communications industries implicated by our rules. I think the Chairman, my colleagues and I all want the best possible data and analysis to base our judgments on. Having better information doesn’t mean we will all agree on every issue at the end of the day; but it does mean that we will have to base our judgments on a corpus of facts reflecting the actual operation of the marketplace rather than on our various theoretical impressions.
I hope no stakeholders will say, “Let somebody else respond to this notice, I’m too busy with other things.” Everyone is going to be living with the consequences of this rule-making exercise, probably for a long time, and I’ve always believed in the old adage that “decisions made without you are decisions against you.”
I look forward to reviewing the information compiled in response to this NPRM. As always, I will review the record thoroughly, without prejudgment. If I am to support any changes to these rules – or any other rule – I expect to know with as much precision as possible how those proposed changes serve the public interest, convenience and necessity.