The Federal Communications Commission has a little holiday present for everyone -- it announced on Thursday that it has voted to move forward with media ownership rules that would ease restrictions on owning newspapers, TV, or radio stations in the same markets.
Similar rules, enacted in 2007, were struck down by a federal appeals court in July because the FCC did not allow enough time for public comment.
Among the proposed changes is a so-called "cross ownership" rule, which would lift some restrictions on owning a TV station and a newspaper in any of the nation's top 20 markets. Another proposal would do away with rules governing how many radio and TV stations can be owned in one market.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking approved by the commission is not a final order. Rather, it begins a 75-day period of public comments and responses. A final order would be drafted and voted upon after that.
All four members of the commission approved portions of the proposals, but Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps dissented on some parts that he said are based on too many assumptions about the power of new media.
"Simply put, what we currently have is an illusion of plenty," he said in a statement. "The barriers to self-publish have never been lower, but the majority of eyeballs and clicks are still focused on too few small players."
Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell, meanwhile, concurred with the proposals but said he was disappointed that the commissioner didn't loosen restrictions further; a sentiment echoed by broadcasters.
"Given the explosion of media outlets, we believe nearly 40-year-old ownership rules that restrict free and local broadcasting ought to be reformed to reflect today's hyper-competitive marketplace," National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith said in a statement.
Free Press President Craig Aaron attacked the FCC for proposing rules that are "strikingly similar" to earlier controversial regulations.
"The FCC must be having a Yogi Berra-moment, because it's déjà vu all over again on the failed policies of the previous administration," Aaron said in a statement.. "Those policies were resoundingly rejected by the public, Congress, and the courts. The FCC should be working to remedy the mistakes of past administrations - not repeating them."
Thursday's vote was taken by circulation, rather than in a public meeting. Copps, who has been a vocal voice on media ownership issues, is leaving at the end of the year and would miss the next public meeting.
The proposed rules are a result of the 2010 quadrennial review of media ownership, which only recently concluded.