Media ownership study ordered destroyed: FCC draft suggested fewer owners would hurt local TV coverage
WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.
The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report "indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public," according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.
'Every last piece' destroyed
Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that "every last piece" of the report be destroyed. "The whole project was just stopped - end of discussion," he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.
In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was "dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer."
Martin said he was not aware of the existence of the report, nor was his staff. His office indicated it had not received Boxer's letter as of midafternoon Thursday.
Local ownership benefits
In the letter, Boxer asked whether any other commissioners "past or present" knew of the report's existence and why it was never made public. She also asked whether it was "shelved because the outcome was not to the liking of some of the commissioners and/or any outside powerful interests?"
The report, written by two economists in the FCC's Media Bureau, analyzed a database of 4,078 individual news stories broadcast in 1998. The broadcasts were obtained from Danilo Yanich, a professor and researcher at the University of Delaware, and were originally gathered by the Pew Foundation's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
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