After Dow Jones Sale: Jerry Ceppos Calls For Media Ownership Limits

By: E&P Staff Jerry Ceppos, who was Knight Ridder's vice president/news when it was the second-biggest newspaper company in America, argues that limits must be imposed on media consolidation, in an op-ed article published in Thursday's San Jose Mercury News.

Ceppos said he became convinced of the need to limit media ownership by Tuesday sale of Dow Jones & Co. to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

"I've decided that the worriers at the Wall Street Journal were right," Ceppos wrote. "The sky did fall on Tuesday. As objectionable as the idea is, we need new methods to limit media consolidation. There is a certain irony in my saying that: I was a vice president of Knight Ridder, once the second-largest U.S. newspaper publisher, when its combined newspaper circulation was about 3.8 million copies a day -- a laughably tiny number next to Murdoch's influence."

The first step, Ceppos suggested, is to "reframe moribund U.S. antitrust laws to limit" the kind of broad "Murdoch-type domination" epitomized by News Corp.'s holdings in newspapers, cable and satellite television, magazine and book publishing, and online networks such as My Space.

News Corp. has properties in four continents. Ceppos said he doesn't have a good idea on how to limit that kind of "domination" of media. "But some of those bright business writers at the Wall Street Journal might if they would just focus on the big picture," he wrote.

Journal reporters who worry that "their new boss might tell them what to write" are missing the point, he added.

"New boss Rupert Murdoch has more control over media -- way beyond the Journal -- than anyone else in history," he wrote. "Experience has shown that he is a passionate news executive who isn't timid about using that control, either."

News Corp.'s holdings are so extensive a list of them "reads like the compilation that the journalistic cynics put together in the 1970s, when newspaper groups expanded like mad and we jokingly wondered if one person someday would control the world's media.

"In fact, that day came Tuesday when Dow Jones, the parent of the Journal, agreed to be acquired by Murdoch's News Corp.," Ceppos wrote.

Ceppos, who retired from Knight Ridder in 2005 after serving six years as its top news executive, is a former executive editor of the Mercury News and held positions at Knight Ridder papers and corporate headquarters for 23 years.


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