Broadcasters Lobby FCC for Cross-Ownership and Duopolies
WASHINGTON: Broadcasters asked the FCC to ease media
ownership restrictions in a flurry of filings on the commission’s 2010 Quadrennial
Regulatory Review. Nexstar, Media
General, Tribune, LIN, Hubbard, Gray, Fox, Sinclair, Hearst, Belo, the National
Association of Broadcasters and the Coalition of Smaller Market Television
Stations all weighed in yesterday, the deadline for filing comments.
“For decades, the commission, like the Department of Justice, has myopically
clung to the outdated notion that local television stations compete only among
filing states. “But any advertising agency would attest to the fact that
television stations compete against cable systems Internet sites, radio
stations, newspapers, and billboards.”
The Coalition is made up of 10 station groups with 118 stations, none of which
are in the 50 largest. It asked the FCC to factor in other media platforms when
considering duopoly rules preventing multiple-station ownership in most
markets. The current rule structure accounts only for TV, radio and newspaper operations.
The Internet is not factored in.
Media General, which owns 18 TV stations and multiple publications, lobbied for
a complete elimination of the rule prohibiting in-market ownership of
newspapers and TV stations by the same entity. I.e., the newspaper-broadcast
“The NBCO rule is an anachronism, no longer supported by any logical facts,”
said. “But it is not just an innocent relic of the past. It is an actual,
serious detriment to the broadcast and newspaper industries, and it hurts
consumers and local communities, particularly small- and medium-sized markets,
the ones most jeopardized by the pinch of today’s lower revenues and the higher
costs of news gathering.”
Tribune, with its heavy newspaper portfolio, filed a
argument for scuttling the NBCO rule. Nexstar, a pure-play TV station
company, asked for duops.
“It is imperative that the commission permit common ownership of two TV
stations in medium and small markets, regardless of ‘voices’ and ‘rankings,’”
said. “Otherwise, the commission’s longstanding policy goals of competition,
diversity and localism will fall victim to
the competitive pressures facing medium and small broadcasters in
today’s hypercompetitive media marketplace.”
The National Association of Broadcasters said it supported “modest” media
ownership reform in the way of allowing cross-ownership and duopolies in all
markets. The group said broadcasters must be able to form “competitively viable
ownership structures” to survive. The NAB’s
pointed out that broadcasters go up against cable operations with dual
revenues streams and not subject to FCC ownership rules.
“It is untenable to maintain broadcast-only restrictions on the assumption that
common ownership of stations could somehow reduce the ability of consumers to
access diverse information or harm competition in the information marketplace,”
the NAB said.
The case against easing cross-ownership and duop rules is that
consolidation will negatively impact media diversity. The United Church of
Christ, Prometheus Radio Project, Media Alliance, the National Organization for
Women, Common Cause, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Benton
Foundation joined in asking the FCC for tighter ownership rules.
“The commission should lower the numerical limits for radio station ownership
to create more opportunities for minorities and women to enter the radio
stated. “It should also close loopholes in the newspaper-broadcast
The filing requests the FCC investigate shared services agreements and news
arrangements among local TV stations, and consider digital multicast feeds in
making its duopoly determination. It calls for the elimination of the rule that discounts
the audience reach of UHF stations by 50 percent for determining the national
audience reach ownership cap of 39 percent.
“The digital transition has rendered the UHF discount moot because UHF stations
are now comparable to VHF, and in fact, many former VHF stations have changed
to UHF,” the filing stated. “If the FCC fails to eliminate the UHF discount,
large group owners may try to expand their audience reach in contravention of
The filing implored the FCC not to change its rules “simply because some
stations are experiencing short-term economic difficulties.”
-- Deborah D. McAdams
May 25, 2010: “FCC Officially
Launches Media Ownership Rule”
The FCC’s media ownership notice initiates a query to determine whether
current rules promote “competition, localism, and diversity.” The NOI asks for
input on several issues, including whether the aforementioned items are
promoted by current law and how these concepts can be measured...
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