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Media Bureau extends deadline for filing amendments to the cross-ownership waiver request

The FCC Media Bureau has extended the deadline to Nov. 7 for filing amendments to existing waiver requests of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule until 90 days after issuance of a final court order on pending judicial challenges to the changed rule.

The extension was granted Oct. 7 following a request a week earlier from Bonneville International, Calvary, Cox Enterprises, Morris Communications and Scranton Times. The Media Bureau granted the 30-day extension to give the commission time to consider the group’s request to delay the deadline until after a final court order on court challenges to modifications the FCC has made to the cross-ownership rule.

The new rule adopts the presumption that granting a waiver to the cross-ownership rule is not inconsistent with the public interest in certain circumstances. Those included:

  • when a daily newspaper wants to combine with a radio station in a top 20 DMA; or
  • when a daily newspaper wants to combine with a TV station in a top 20 DMA and the station is not ranked among the top four in the DMA and at least eight independent major voices remain in the market.

In setting up the new rules, the commission also said it was likely not in the public interest for a single entity to own a newspaper-broadcast combination in markets smaller than the top 20 and thus would be unlikely to approve such transaction. However, in certain circumstances it would reverse its negative presumption, including:

  • when such a combination involves a failed or failing newspaper or broadcast operation; or
  • when combining the operations would result in a new source of a significant amount of local news.

At the time, the FCC gave licensees with pending rule waiver requests that involved existing combinations or more than one newspaper and broadcast station and those that have already receive such waivers 90 days after its Quadrennial Review Order to amend the waiver request or waiver renewal or to file for permanent waivers.

Those requesting the extension said the factors they must address in these waiver request filings require extensive data collection and may involve getting expert testimony. Additionally, those requesting the extension said the pending court appeals raise questions about the precise criteria the commission will use to analyze the waivers.

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