The Nexstar CEO says while the FCC’s ownership coverage cap is effectively at 78% now, broadcasters would like the Pai FCC to lock it in at that level so that some future FCC with a Democratic majority cannot easily reset it at 39% by once again repealing the UHF discount.
Lee Spieckerman: “Prohibiting TV broadcast groups from at least approaching the reach of the big networks dramatically diminishes their ability to invest in more non-network programming options for viewers, become serious contenders in the burgeoning streaming marketplace and effectively compete with the networks and digital titans. How can that possibly be in the public interest?”
Pai is a classic free-market deregulator. The fewer rules governing business the better he likes it. That’s why it makes some sense that he will do nothing regarding proposals to raise the FCC’s station ownership cap. Why should he? The cap is plenty high now and any change is almost certain to end up challenged in court. Doing nothing also avoids any political blowback in Washington.
Not all broadcasters believe that the cap should go away completely. Graham’s Emily Barr: “The problem is, 39% seems wrong and 100% seems wrong.” Other topics at the TV2020 conference Wednesday: The panelists were extremely bullish on how much live programming will play into the overall health of the broadcast industry. And they expressed enthusiasm for ATSC 3.0, saying that there is no need for a solid business 3.0 business plan to make sense of the massive initiative. L-r: TVNewsCheck’s Harry Jessell, Graham Media’s Emily Barr, Nexstar’s Perry Sook, Fox Television Stations’ Jack Abernethy and Gray’s Hilton Howell. (Photo: Wendy Moger-Bross)
Fox Television Stations chief Jack Abernethy: “The best thing for our business would be full relaxation of ownership restrictions,” adding that such a move would also be the best thing for employees and consumers.
An FCC spokesman confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the proposals for modifying the cap will not be voted on at the Sept. 26 meeting and declined comment on when they might appear.
Ion, Trinity and Univision have weighed in at the FCC with supplemental evidence for what they argue is the need to roll back the FCC’s 39% cap on a TV station group’s national audience reach, and preferably all the way rather than raising it once again.
The controversial proposal to change how many stations companies can own didn’t show up on the schedule for the commission’s Aug. 2 meeting.
A dozen senators called on the FCC to investigate Sinclair Broadcast Group for distorting the news, and to pause its review of the pending acquisition of Tribune Media. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai immediately shot down the request, saying it would conflict with his commitment to the First Amendment and freedom of the press.
A dozen senators wrote to the FCC today to urge the agency to investigate Sinclair Broadcast Group and pause its proposed merger with Tribune Media.