—The FCC is preparing to act on some aspects of its media ownership
rules at its public meeting later this month. For now, all rules remain in place.
That’s according to an agency official who adds the agency is
preparing to seek comment on how to modify existing media ownership
rules to reflect the realities of today’s marketplace. The agency will
seek comment on whether to eliminate restrictions on newspaper/radio
combinations as well as eliminate the radio/television cross-ownership
rule in favor of relying on local radio and television station limits in
a market. Proponents have said it’s well beyond time to lift these
restrictions given the plethora of media outlets while opponents say
lifting bans will lead to more media ownership consolidation.
This is the first word of the new chairman’s intentions on media
ownership, a holdover from the last chairman. The commission will roll
in comments from its 2010 quadrennial media ownership rule review into
the one for 2014, which the agency begins working on this month.
The official termed the current review “wide open,” with “essentially all questions on the table.”
For example, in the 2010 review, the commission asked how its waiver
standards could be improved. An official said the agency’s threshold for
a failed or failing station is something that may change this time
around. Some broadcasters have suggested the current threshold is too
hard to meet. “We might loosen that,” said the official.
Separately, the chairman is preparing to circulate among his
colleagues an item to revise Joint Sales Agreement rules in place for
television. The main change is JSAs would be attributable, as they
already are for radio, and “count” towards local television limits.
Specifically, the chairman is looking to adopt a rule that states if
the owner of one TV station in a market sells 15 percent or more of the
advertising time for a competing station in the same market, then it has
an ownership stake in that station which counts towards local TV
limits. The commission believes the issue is especially acute for
television stations in small and medium markets, according to the
official, where the JSA means the “stronger” station has the ability to
control the finances and programming of the “weaker” station.