In the age of the Internet, the boogie man of big media conglomeration has been taken down to size. The concentration of media power is not as much a threat as it once was.

That’s why the Federal Communications Commission vote Tuesday to allow broadcasters to own newspapers in the same market should not be terribly worrisome to those favoring robust competition in the news industry.

The FCC voted 3-2 Tuesday to rescind a 30-year-old ban on the cross-ownership practice. Commission Chairman Kevin Martin and the two Republican members of the FCC voted to lift the ban. The two democratic members of the commission voted against lifting the ban.

Even under the new rule, there will remain some restrictions on ownership. The markets must be one of the 20 largest in the country (this wouldn’t include Mankato) and there must remain at least eight independently owned media outlets in the market. Also, the television station doing the buying of a newspaper cannot be one of the top four in the market.

Proponents of removing the ownership restrictions have argued the growing number and method of distributions including cable stations and the Internet, make the media marketplace more diverse and more competitive. Opponents of lifting the ban argued the number of actual news gathering organizations has been dwindling.

Technology has often held the key to media market power. If one newspaper company has the economic power to buy a multi-million dollar press and another does not, clearly the company with more money wins the distribution game. That technology advantage was more pronounced 30 years ago when the ban on ownership was put in place. There were many barriers to entry to run a newspaper or a broadcast station. Today, startup operations can be run on a shoe-string with low-cost access, via the Internet, to an audience of millions.

As the technology advances, it will continue to be the fulcrum that presses media competition. There is no need for government to direct the behavior of investors in this new media environment.

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