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Gray Television Wants FCC Rule Changes to Strengthen Local News

Gray Television
(Image credit: Gray Television)

WASHINGTON D.C.—In a recent presentation to a FCC commissioner, Gray Television pitched the idea that the economics of local news could be strengthened by a variety of FCC actions, including a ruling on a 2014 proposal to apply retransmission regulations to online video. 

Gray Television counsel Robert M. McDowell made the proposals to FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington and his media advisor, Adam Cassady on May 21. The presentation is available here,

Noting that stations have increased local TV news by 60% since 2003 and that local news provides an extremely important source of information, McDowell argued that “to promote local journalism going forward, the FCC should be considering regulatory initiatives to permit efficient defensive business combinations and to further reduce outdated and counter-productive regulatory burdens that undermine broadcasters’ crucial revenue streams.”

McDowell also noted that “due to quirks in federal copyright law and the FCC’s regulations, online video distributors like Dish Sling, Hulu and YouTube TV currently are not required to negotiate retransmission consent with individual stations,” which reduces the revenue stations get to fund their newsrooms. 

To rectify this problem, McDowell argued that the FCC could move on a rule making action pending since 2014 that would classify linear online video distributors as MVPDs for retransmission consent purposes. 

MdDowell also pressed for regulatory relief in a number of areas that he contended would strengthen the economic viability of producing expensive local TV news. 

These include: small market duopoly relief; excluding local news from 15% programming limitation for local marketing agreements; expanding the Incubator Program to television with a focus on local news production; and reducing record keeping requirements.