CBS, Infinity split with NAB

CBS sees the NAB's position as being one that is actively working against its desire to eliminate national ownership caps. CBS Television and Infinity
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CBS sees the NAB's position as being one that is actively working against its desire to eliminate national ownership caps.

CBS Television and Infinity Broadcasting resigned from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) to protest NAB's support of ownership caps on television stations. A release by the network stated: “We have been proud NAB members for many years, but it has recently become clear that we have a fundamental issue on which we and certain of the NAB's television members disagree. Until recently, we felt it was possible to remain members of the Association with this disagreement unresolved. Due to actions taken by the NAB, that is no longer the case.”

Fox and NBC left NAB two years ago over the same issue. This leaves only ABC and PAX as network members, though it should be noted that NBC owns about a third of PAX.

CBS sees the NAB's position as being one that is actively working against its goal of eliminating ownership caps. But the network will continue to work with others in the industry to make sure free, over-the-air television and radio stand on an even footing with their competitors both for the good of the business and for the public they serve.

CBS, NBC and Fox want to be able to buy and own anything they can get their hands on. There are those who see this as limiting competition, but Viacom, the News Corp. and other broadcasters say the proliferation of media outlets on cable and the Internet has eliminated the need to limit ownership.

Local broadcasters have pressured the NAB to protect their interests against those of the networks and a few large station groups who are intent on consolidating control of terrestrial television broadcasting. There are those who see the lifting of the caps on ownership as undermining the financial viability of local broadcasters, as well as limiting their ability to evolve the business model of local broadcasting. Small companies argue that the FCC should keep the limits to prevent large groups of stations and national networks from ignoring the needs of local viewers. Affiliates have long maintained the position of gatekeeper for the networks and program syndicates, injecting a healthy dose of local information and entertainment services. Managers of network-owned and operated stations (O&Os) give the same argument with respect to local information, news, public affairs, etc.

In any event, local or small-group-owned stations will need to become local content producers and help local advertisers reach local customers with new forms of content and targeted advertising, generating a competitive local platform. This would allow a more creative and technically oriented job market at each station.

Viacom Inc., parent of CBS, along with the News Corp.-owned Fox network and General Electric Co., parent of the NBC Networks, have filed a suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia to force the Federal Communications Commission to review the broadcast ownership cap issue. The NAB plans to file a brief in the case opposing the networks, sources said. When Viacom bought CBS Corp. and its television stations last May, the company's total reach to a national audience rose to 41 percent. The FCC ordered Viacom to comply with the cap within 12 months. That original time frame has now expired.