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Originally published Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Reassert FCC bans on media monopoly

The Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission have an opportunity to clarify and reinforce the rules and values of a ban on media monopoly.

AMERICA is best served by diverse, independent media, and that goal is nurtured by equally diverse ownership.

Unfortunately, decades of timid leadership at the Federal Communications Commission has produced policies that serve big corporations to the detriment of the public.

The Obama administration and the FCC have an opportunity to reinforce limits on newspapers monopolizing TV and radio outlets in the same market, and the number of television and radio stations one company can own in the same market.

The FCC has muddled the issue since a ban was first imposed in 1974. Exemptions and extensions of exemptions have riddled the intent of the rules. This spring a federal court lifted the FCC's ban on cross-ownership, and the exasperated court directed the agency to rewrite the rules.

Last week, the stage was set for remedial action. The Tribune Co., parent company of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel and many more and corporate owner of a radio station and 23 television stations in 19 markets, announced plans to seek FCC endorsement of the status quo as it emerges from bankruptcy.

A media blog announcing the news quoted senior Tribune management as seeing the FCC step as necessary to ensure an orderly transfer of licenses to a new management structure.

The words are dismaying. Businesses get reorganized, but not the consequences.

Media consolidation puts what Americans read, hear and see into the hands of a couple of bottom-line-driven corporations, which is not a viable structure for a healthy democracy.

President Obama and FCC chair Julius Genachowski have the Tribune application and the opportunity of congressionally mandated four-year reviews of cross-ownership rules to eliminate decades of ambiguity over a fundamental value.

Restate, reinforce and exercise limits on newspaper and TV ownership in the same markets. Do not allow corporate giants to gobble up all the TV and radio stations in a market.

Endlessly granting waivers does not reclaim the independence of American journalism.

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