The trade group says in comments that the commission’s media ownership regulations are outdated and don’t reflect market realities. It argues that they place broadcasters at a “severe disadvantage” in a marketplace filled with rival media that do not labor under similar restrictions.
The NAB asked the FCC yesterday to liberalize its local media ownership limits and not to impose new restrictions on contractual arrangements under which stations in a market share resources or operate in tandem.
In formal comments on the FCC’s congressionally mandated review of its ownership rules, the NAB argued that the ownership rules place broadcasters at a “severe disadvantage” in a marketplace filled with rival media that do not labor under similar restrictions. As a result, it said, “many broadcast stations struggle to maintain their economic vibrancy and a strong presence in local communities.”
In particular, the NAB said the FCC should allow common ownership of two TV stations in more markets. Today, such duopolies are permitted only in markets with more than eight independently owned stations and only if the duopolies do not involve two of the top-four rated stations in the market.
“Often, combinations of two lower-rated stations (even if among the top-four rated stations in a market) would create a more viable competitor to the leading television station and other video programming outlets providing service in the market,” the NAB said.
“The eight-voices test similarly fails to take into account marketplace realities. It disproportionately impacts smaller markets, most of which do not have eight stations to begin with, and fails in any case to encourage competition or increase provision of local news and public affairs programming.”
The NAB said the FCC should repeal the ban against common ownership of newspapers and stations in a market. “The record here again establishes that the assumed harms from common ownership of newspaper and broadcast facilities cannot be proven.
“Quite the contrary, the record evidence demonstrates that increased crossownership produces substantial public interest benefits, as broadcast outlets and newspapers are able to achieve increased efficiencies and devote more resources to serving their local communities.
“Given that local news production is subject to strong economies of scale and scope, it is unsurprising that numerous studies conducted by (or for) the commission, industry analysts, academics and others have consistently found over the course of decades that broadcast outlets cross-owned with newspapers offer greater amounts of local news and informational programming.”
Many TV stations have circumvented the FCC’s duopoly limits through shared services agreements and other contractual arrangements under which two stations in a market operate jointly to some extent.
The NAB contended that such arrangements should not be restricted. They “do not threaten licensee control over operations and programming decisions, which are the core principles underlying the FCC’s attribution policies,” it said. “In fact, sharing arrangements advance the FCC’s localism and diversity goals by facilitating the provision of local news and other programming.”