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Ex-FCC lawyer says agency ordered TV station ownership study destroyed

[JURIST] A former lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission [official website; JURIST news archive] has said the agency ordered the destruction of a 2004 draft working paper [PDF text] that examined the effect of corporate group ownership on local television news coverage. Adam Candeub [academic profile], who was an attorney-advisor in the FCC's Media Bureau before joining the Michigan State University law faculty, told AP that high-ranking FCC officials directed staff members to destroy "every last piece" of the draft and that the project "was just stopped" afterward. The existence of the study was publicly revealed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) [official profile], who said she received a copy from someone inside the FCC during confirmation proceedings [committee materials] for FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin [official profile], whom President Bush nominated for a second term in April. In a letter to Boxer [PDF text] Friday, Martin responded that neither he nor his staff had been aware of the draft until Boxer's disclosure and that he did not know why it had been withheld.

The working paper, based on analysis of 4,000 news stories, concluded that locally owned television stations carried five more minutes of news per broadcast than group-owned stations, and three more minutes of so-called "on location" news. In 2003, the year before the study, the FCC voted to allow companies to own multiple television stations in some markets as part of an effort to relax ownership rules, insisting that group stations were more likely to carry local news stories. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, however, thwarted the rule changes [court materials] in 2004. The FCC decided not to appeal and this June approved a review of the ownership rules [JURIST reports]. AP has more.

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