FCC’s Media Bureau Opens Review of Media Ownership Rules

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The FCC’s Media Bureau has commenced the 2022 Quadrennial Review of the Commission’s media ownership rules and is seeking comment, as required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, on whether the media ownership rules remain “necessary in the public interest as the result of competition.”   

FCC noted that the Commission has not yet adopted final rules in the 2018 Quadrennial Review, which has been delayed by extensive litigation, but stressed that the agency remains “cognizant of the statutory obligation to review the broadcast ownership rules every four years. Just as the previous (2018) quadrennial review was initiated in December of 2018, we seek to commence this subsequent (2022) review before the end of the 2022 calendar year….Accordingly, the Media Bureau finds that initiating the 2022 Quadrennial Review despite the pendency of the 2018 Quadrennial Review is appropriate in this instance.”

The FCC noted that it would examine the media ownership rules in light of the media landscape of 2022 and beyond. Although these rules remain subject to the ongoing 2018 Quadrennial Review proceeding, the FCC noted that “the three rules currently in place and subject to this review are the Local Radio Ownership Rule and the Local Television Ownership Rule—which limit ownership by a single entity of broadcast radio or television stations in local markets respectively—and the Dual Network Rule, which effectively prohibits mergers among the Big Four broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC).”

In its examination of these rules, the FCC said it was seeking “information regarding the media marketplace, including ongoing trends or developments (e.g., consolidation, technological innovation, or the emergence of new video or audio options for consumers), that commenters find relevant to the Commission’s review of its media ownership rules.”     

“In addition, we note that the statutory directive of section 202(h) is explicitly tied to the public interest standard, in that it requires the Commission to determine whether the rules remain `necessary in the public interest as the result of competition,’” the FCC continued. “Accordingly, we seek comment on the impact of the rules on the American public as consumers of media and the function and objectives of the rules as they relate to broadcasters’ public interest obligations.  Have the rules served, and do they continue to serve, consumers, particularly with respect to the Commission’s longstanding policy goals of competition, localism, and diversity?  If so, in what ways?  Are there ways in which the rules have fallen short?  Has the marketplace under our current rules delivered sufficient “returns” for consumers with respect to competition, localism, and diversity?  How can the Commission measure or evaluate any “returns” that consumers have received as a result of those rules?  Should the Commission adjust its analysis of the audio and video programming marketplace to account for fundamental changes in consumer behavior (e.g., use of streaming alternatives)?  Are there areas in which consumers rely uniquely on broadcast media?  More generally, how should the Commission define or redefine the policy goals for the rules?  Are there other policy goals, besides competition, localism, and diversity, that the Commission should consider in relation to the rules?”

The FCC also explained that it would “evaluate the effects of its rules on the ownership of broadcast stations by minorities and women. To this end, we seek comment on barriers to minority and female ownership of broadcast stations and areas in which commenters believe those barriers relate to, intersect with, or could be addressed by changes to the three ownership rules that are the subject of this proceeding.  Specifically, we encourage commenters to identify concrete changes the Commission could or should make with respect to these or any additional ownership rules.  We ask commenters to explain in detail or to demonstrate with legal analysis and empirical evidence how any such changes or additions would address concerns regarding minority and female ownership and how they could withstand legal scrutiny.”

The FCC noted that commenters may provide any additional information regarding legal or economic factors, changes, or issues that the Commission should consider, evaluate, and/or address in the context of the 2022 Quadrennial Review.

“In this regard, we reiterate the request from previous quadrennial reviews that commenters submit empirical evidence, data, and studies in support of their claims and positions wherever possible,” the FCC said. “We encourage commenters to draw any conclusions or connections between data and potential policy or rule changes as tightly and as explicitly as possible.  In addition to identifying, analyzing, and submitting existing data, commenters are encouraged to compile new data or to conduct further research that can be submitted to the Commission as part of the 2022 proceeding.”

The FCC explained that all filings must be submitted in MB Docket No. 22-459. 

Interested parties may file comments on or before 45 days after publication in the Federal Register and replies 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).  

• Electronic Filers:  Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the ECFS:  http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/.  

• Paper Filers:  Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each filing.

• Filings can be sent by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail.  All filings must be addressed to the Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.

• Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9050 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701.  U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 45 L Street NE Washington, DC 20554.

• Effective March 19, 2020, and until further notice, the Commission no longer accepts any hand or messenger delivered filings. This is a temporary measure taken to help protect the health and safety of individuals, and to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.  See FCC Announces Closure of FCC Headquarters Open Window and Change in Hand-Delivery Policy, Public Notice, DA 20-304 (March 19, 2020).  

Additional information is available here.  

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.