IMAGE: Sen. Barbara Boxer
Mary Altaffer  /  AP
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, addresses the media at U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday.
updated 9/18/2006 7:42:45 PM ET 2006-09-18T23:42:45

Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday made public a second Federal Communications Commission study on media ownership that she says was shelved by agency officials.

The FCC Media Bureau report analyzes the impact of deregulation in the radio industry. The report states that from March 1996 through March 2003, the number of commercial radio stations on the air rose 5.9 percent while the number of station owners fell 35 percent.

The intense concentration of ownership followed a 1996 rewrite of telecommunications law that eliminated a 40-station national ownership cap.

The report, apparently prepared in 2003, was never made public, nor have any similar analyses followed, despite the fact that radio industry reports were released in 1998, 2001 and 2002, said Boxer, D-Calif.

Last week, Boxer released a draft of another FCC study, this one showing that media consolidation leads to less local TV news coverage. A lawyer with the FCC at the time told The Associated Press that FCC managers ordered the destruction of that report.

In a letter sent Monday to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Boxer wrote, "...this is the second report in a week that I have received that appears to have been shelved by officials within the FCC and I am growing more and more concerned at these developments."

Martin joined the commission in July 2001 and became chairman in March 2005. The chairman said he had never seen the first study, and agreed to add it to the record in the commission's ongoing media ownership review.

Boxer had already asked the chairman to order an investigation by the agency's inspector general of the television study. On Monday, she asked that the circumstances surrounding the failure to release the radio industry study be added to the investigation and that he "examine whether it was then or is now the practice of the FCC to suppress facts that are contrary to a desired outcome."

An agency spokeswoman said Martin was reviewing the letter and that no decision had been made on whether to order a formal investigation.

In June 2003, the commission voted to loosen rules on virtually all areas of media ownership, including cross-ownership limits on radio and television stations. But commissioners at the time were also concerned about the emergence of radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc., which now owns about 1,200 stations.

It decided to eliminate its existing system of measuring radio markets and use one favored by Arbitron, a private firm best known for measuring ratings. The commission decided not to force broadcasters to divest stations in markets where the new boundaries would push the broadcast companies over the limit.

Most of the rules the commission voted on in 2003 were thrown out by an appeals court in Philadelphia. The agency is reconsidering them. Clear Channel is lobbying the FCC to increase the number of stations that can be owned in the nation's largest markets.

Also on Monday, the FCC extended the period allowed for public comment on the ownership proceeding by a month, from Sept. 22 to Oct. 23. A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3 in Los Angeles.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments