05/30/2013 11:16 am ET Updated Jul 30, 2013

Minority Media Not Affected By Cross-Ownership, Study Finds


(Adds public interest reaction, total stations invited to participate)

By Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON, May 30 (Reuters) - Female and minority broadcasters do not appear concerned about one owner controlling newspapers, radio and TV stations in the same market, according to a study released Thursday as federal regulators review such media cross-ownership rules.

The study, funded by the non-profit Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, was based on responses from 14 broadcasters and immediately criticized by public interest groups as not rigorous enough.

Diversity in media ownership has been one of the biggest concerns expressed by minority and public advocacy groups that oppose relaxing decades-old FCC rules on how many and what types of media outlets can be run by the same owner in one market.

The FCC is considering slightly relaxing limits on cross-ownership of media in a single market. The agency paused its review of cross-ownership rules to await results of the study and gauge concerns that consolidation of media power could mean fewer opportunities for minorities or women.

"We were struck by the lack of any large concern by almost all of the respondents to these cross-media operations," wrote Mark Fratrik, vice president and chief economist for media research firm BIA/Kelsey, who wrote the study.

The firm surveyed broadcast station general managers in markets with concentrated media ownership to ask what factors affected their programming, operations and competitiveness.

It reached out to more than 140 stations, Fratrik said, but received replies from 14 operations. In his report, Fratrik wrote the study was never meant to be exhaustive and the received responses were sufficient to paint a picture.

Matt Wood, policy director at public interest group Free Press, said the new survey was seriously flawed.

"Study after study has shown that consolidation limits opportunities for diversity on the airwaves," he said in a statement. "The study submitted today is not a substitute for the kind of independent research the FCC must conduct before it even considers changes to the media ownership limits."

The FCC has yet to move to collect public comment on the new findings as part of its quadrennial review of the rules. (Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Doina Chiacu)