NAB to Take Rules to Court

NAB will appeal a key part of the FCC's June 2 order on media ownership rules, saying the relief to companies seeking local duopolies and triopolies does not go far enough.

"Many TV stations believe we did not go nearly far enough in helping to preserve localism and strengthen some of the ability of the stations to combine forces to better serve listeners and viewers," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.

The new rules would allow a company to own two stations in a single market as long as only one, at most, was among that market's top four stations. In smaller markets, many of which only have four or five commercial stations, duopolies would be effectively banned-although the FCC did provide a provision for some exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Triopolies would be allowed in a handful of the nation's largest markets.

NAB's Joint Board of Directors made the unanimous decision to appeal at its July 29 meeting.

Wharton also said NAB would support a drive in the House of Representatives to roll back the FCC's order on the nationwide ownership cap. The commission's June 2 order would raise the maximum audience reach of a company from 35 percent of the nation to 45 percent, a change long opposed by NAB.

NAB had withheld its endorsement of measures aimed at rolling back that FCC order because it feared losing gains achieved in the order, such as the loosening of newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership restrictions. But a key spending bill, approved in a 400-21 House vote, qualifies as the "clean" bill the NAB can support, Wharton said.

NAB remains opposed to action in the Senate to overturn more portions of the FCC order.

The Network Affiliates Stations Alliance (NASA), which includes many NAB members, will lead the court appeal of the ownership cap decision, Wharton said.

The Joint Board of Directors also gave NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts a vote of confidence, extending his tenure at least another year. Fritts has headed NAB since 1982.