NAB and the FCC at Odds Over Media Ownership Review

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boxing-gloves-159920_960_720In response to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulating a quadrennial media ownership review affecting broadcast ownership regulations, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton replied,  “We’re disappointed that Chairman Wheeler continues to ignore the will of both the courts and Congress by proposing to retain broadcast ownership rules that long ago outlived their usefulness.”
“It is shocking that regulators who bless mammoth mergers like AT&T/DirecTV and Charter/Time Warner Cable would still bar common ownership of two TV stations or broadcast/newspaper combinations in a local market,” he said. NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, bill themselves as “the premier advocacy association for America’s broadcasters” while representing radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs.
The FCC announcement on media ownership stated “the existing media ownership rules, with slight modification, remain in the public interest” but require minor updates to reflect current industry trends and marketplace realities.
The FCC statement outlined the following rules that incurred the wrath of the NAB, quoting the report:

  • Local Television Ownership Rule: (1) Retains the existing rule, with a minor technical modification to address the transition to digital broadcasting; (2) Extends the current ban on co-ownership of two top-four television stations in a market to network affiliation swaps, to prevent broadcasters from evading application of the rule; and (3) Declines to limit dual network affiliations via multicast at this time.
  • Local Radio Ownership Rule:  Retains the existing rule with minor clarifications to assist the Media Bureau in processing license assignment/transfer applications.  (For example, the item adopts a new Puerto Rico market definition based on Commission precedent, and also clarifies the grandfathering rules applicable to community of license changes.)
  • Radio/Television Cross-Ownership Rule:  Retains the existing rule with a modification to address the transition to digital television broadcasting.
  • Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule:  Retains the existing ban on cross ownership, but modestly relaxes the rule by providing an exception for failed or failing entities and states that the Commission will consider waivers. The trigger for the rule is also modified to consider the relevant Nielsen television or radio market (if any) and to replace the prior analog television contour with a digital contour to reflect the transition to digital television broadcasting.
  • Dual Network Rule:  Retains the existing rule, which prohibits mergers among any of the top four national television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX).

NAB’s spokesman Wharton added, “Ultimately, NAB hopes the five-member FCC, Congress or the courts end this indefensible FCC charade, and that meaningful ownership reform is adopted for the benefit of the millions of Americans reliant on free and local broadcasting,” he said.

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