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FCC chairman orders investigation into 'destroyed' media ownership studies

[JURIST] The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] has directed the FCC's inspector general [official website] to investigate the alleged concealment of a 2004 draft working paper [PDF text] on television ownership and a 2003 draft report on radio ownership. [PDF text]. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin [official profile] said in a Monday letter [PDF] to Senator Barbara Boxer, who obtained copies of the documents, that he had never seen the reports and launched the inspection to reveal what happened to them.

The inspection comes as a reaction to a claim by a former FCC lawyer that the agency had ordered the destruction [JURIST report] of the draft working papers. The 2004 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]. Reuters has more.

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