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NAB calls for ownership rule change to preserve localism, news

The FCC should remove certain ownership restrictions as TV stations face an onslaught of new digital competitors; otherwise, localism will suffer and some local TV news operations in medium and smaller markets may be forced to close shop, according to NAB president, David Rehr.

In a Feb. 8 letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin regarding media ownership, Rehr called for removing the complete ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership and reform of the television duopoly rule.

According to Rehr, “local television broadcasters are bearing the expense of the DTV transition and the loss of network compensation.” At the same time they are also facing stiffer competition from cable and direct broadcast satellite for audiences and advertising revenue. The Internet, mobile phones and even iPods are changing the competitive landscape, he said.

A significant number of TV stations “have already reduced or eliminated their local news operations due to financial difficulties,” he told Martin. “Localism and diversity” are not promoted by “restrictions that doom local broadcasters to ownership arrangements no longer economically viable,” the letter said.

Existing duopolies, local marketing agreements and joint sales agreements show that market combinations can do more than “merely preserving existing news operations,” he said. Such combinations can improve local newsrooms and “lead to the initiation of local news services at stations formerly without any locally produced news.”

The association “emphasizes the need” to let TV stations in every market size form “more efficient and viable ownership arrangements, including duopolies,” the letter said.

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