NAB Criticizes ‘Backward’ Opposition to FCC Ownership Changes

Says rules must be changed to reflect broadcast’s changes in the 21st century.
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WASHINGTON—When it comes to those that are opposing modifications to the FCC’s media ownership rules, the National Association of Broadcasters is not holding back in its most recent comments. The organization wrote that comments submitted in opposition to reform are “fundamentally backward” in this new media marketplace.

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Arguments that highlight this type of backward thinking, per NAB, include the critiques of stressing economic viability over the role of local TV stations to provide news and information. The broadcast “industry’s ability to function in the ‘public interest, convenience and necessity’ is fundamentally premised on its economic viability,” reads the NAB’s statement.

The NAB also makes the case that the opposition is either omitting or misinterpreting Section 202(h), saying that they are leaving out the word “competition.”

“Looking at Section 202(h) the correct way, the FCC’s primary focus in this proceeding should be on the intense and growing competition radio and TV stations face for audiences and advertising revenue in a broad marketplace with myriad content sources and advertising options,” NAB’s comments read. “Due to these profound changes, the current local radio and TV ownership rules are no longer ‘necessary in the public interest as the result of competition,’ and Section 202(h) requires the Commission to ‘repeal or modify’ them.”

As a result of this growing competition, the NAB is proposing that the FCC eliminate such ownership restrictions as the banning of combinations of top-four rated stations and that prevent ownership of more than two stations in all markets. The NAB argues that those opposing these changes present no legal, factual or logical arguments, nor any analyses and minimal relevant data.

It also says that maintaining the rules will not promote diversity for station ownership or programming, saying it has not done so in the past, so there is little reason to believe it will in the future.

The leaders of the opposition to modifying the ownership rules, according to NAB’s statement, is pay TV industry leaders. “Rather than ensuring that the viewing public is served by strong local TV stations, pay TV providers’ proposals are designed to weaken their competition for viewers and advertising dollars and gain an even greater advantage in retransmission consent negotiations,” the comments read.

“Hyperbolic claims that broadcast deregulation will eliminate all diversity and all local news, or generalized complaints about media consolidation, provide no basis for retaining analog-era ownership rules,” NAB writes. “The FCC should discount the unsupported opinion and rhetoric submitted by parties wedded to a backward-looking approach to regulating radio and TV stations, and adopt rules reflecting competitive conditions in the 21st century.”

NAB’s full comments can be read here.