Why have the FCC’s decade-long efforts to liberalize the broadcast ownership rules been stymied by two judges and will that continue?
The FCC has reinstated its 2016 ownership rules, recognizing that the changes made in those rules in 2017 were no longer effective because the Third Circuit Court of Appeals had thrown out the 2017 decision. While the FCC may still try to appeal the Third Circuit decision to the Supreme Court, the Third Circuit’s mandate has issued, meaning that its order is effective even if a Supreme Court appeal is filed.
TV station owners are taking advantage of FCC rules to quietly take over small-town airwaves, but cable and satellite companies are crying foul to regulators. Broadcasters aren’t supposed to own more than one top-rated outlet in any market, but they are snapping up multiple stations anyway in small markets like Parkersburg, W.Va., and Greenville, Miss., as the broadcast TV market is challenged by changes in technology and advertising.
The FCC isn’t likely to loosen ownership restrictions anytime soon, said leaders from Nexstar, Gray and Meredith last week, but outside money is likely to continue coming into the industry while the ownership cap holds steady. L-r: Patrick McCreery of Meredith, Perry Sook of Nexstar and Pat LaPlatney of Gray. (Photo: Wendy Moger-Bross)
The federal court in Philadelphia said the FCC, in eliminating the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule and relaxing the local TV duopoly rule, failed to ascertain the impact of the action on station ownership by women and minorities. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blasted the ruling and the court, which has repeatedly blocked ownership dereg: “It’s become quite clear that there is no evidence or reasoning — newspapers going out of business, broadcast radio struggling, broadcast TV facing stiffer competition than ever — that will persuade them to change their minds.”
Gray Television’s deal to buy KDLT Sioux Fall, S.D., and create a precedent-setting affiliate duopoly in the market has been hung up at the FCC for 15 months without any explanation. For the sake of buyers and sellers, large and small, the FCC needs to act.
When it comes to those 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.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put in a plug Wednesday for giving the FCC some fast track broadcast deregulatory authority. In a House Communications Subcommittee FCC oversight hearing, Pai said that the disconnect between a moving marketplace and the “stasis” of FCC rules was the fundamental issue the FCC had with its media ownership rules.
The cable trade association says the commission should not only retain its ban on the common ownership of two full-power Big Four network affiliates in the same market, but should also close a “loophole” that allows affiliates to double up by carrying Big Four programming on low-power stations and multicast streams. NCTA such deals give broadcasters an unfair advantage during retrans negotiations.
This Thursday and Friday, at a “workshop” in Washington, broadcasters get to make the case to the antitrust division of the Justice Department that TV stations compete not only with each other, but also with cable and digital media like Facebook and Google. It’s nice that Justice is giving broadcasters this opportunity to air their grievances, but I’m doubtful it will trigger a change in policy, at least not in the short term.
The FCC chairman tells the NAB Show that when it comes to the commission’s review, “we will not be deterred by those whose regulatory views are not guided by facts and reasons, but instead were set in stone in the era of Laverne & Shirley, Starsky & Hutch and The Captain and Tennille.”
FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks weighed in on localization and local broadcasters’ coverage of crises during an NAB Show panel session.
FCC chief Ajit Pai should finish what he started on local TV ownership reform by approving the precedent-setting station sale in Sioux Fall, S.D. Action is long overdue.
The FCC told a federal appeals court this week that it did gauge the impact of its 2017 broadcast deregulation on media ownership diversity and found it would have “no material impact.” That came in a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which is hearing appeals by Prometheus and others of that media ownership deregulation.
Most of a dozen broadcast groups, including Nexstar and Tribune, told the FCC today in a filing since UHF is the stronger, more valuable, signal in the digital age, and an owner can, if it had only UHF stations, reach up to 78% of the national audience given the 50% UHF discount, making the cap a straight 78% across the board is the least the FCC should do.
Comments on the issues teed up by the FCC in its 2018 Quadrennial Regulatory Review of its ownership rules are due April 29 and reply comments May 29.
Lately, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice headed by Makan Delrahim has been undermining the FCC — and perhaps even Congress — and disrupting the broadcasting business as it struggles to ward off rivals for viewers and ad dollars on multiple fronts. I cannot remember a time when Justice has plunged so deeply into the nitty gritty of the broadcasting advertising marketplace and what kind of local station combinations should be allowed.
In a filing with the FCC, the station group says it will ask the agency for a waiver of the rule that prohibits common ownership of two top four stations in a market. Nexstar also acknowledges that it will have to exit markets to comply with the commission’s 39% ownership cap. As things now stand, the merger would swell Nexstar’s coverage to 47.1%.
TVNewsCheck’s prescient editor, Harry Jessell, asks his infallible Magic 8-Ball to reveal how 2019 will unfold for various aspects of the television business, including core advertising, political advertising, retrans, mergers, FCC ownership caps, Big-4 duopolies and ATSC 3.0. He then expounds on the answers since, while all-knowing, the 8-Ball is notoriously terse.
In its mandated quadrennial review, the commission seeks comment on local radio and television ownership rules, the dual network rule that prohibits a merger among the Big Four broadcast networks and diversity-related proposals.
As expected, the FCC on Dec. 12 will officially launch its latest congressionally mandated “Quadrennial” review of broadcast ownership rules. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did the unveiling Tuesday in his monthly blog post on the items the FCC plans to vote on at its next public meeting, which he does when the tentative agenda is released 21 days before the meeting.
Labor Day is receding in the rear view mirror and now it’s time to buckle down. In the weeks and months ahead broadcasters will be looking for answers on what the FCC will do about the ownership cap; who will be the big buyers and sellers in the station M&A market; how will the ratings for NFL games fare; and which new fall broadcast network shows will hit or miss. Advertising is always top of mind and there are several upcoming events that will discuss just that.
Three consent decrees entered into by public companies in recent months for, without prior FCC approval, moving station licenses among wholly-owned subsidiaries as part of corporate reorganizations, remind broadcasters that if they are making any change in their ownership where the chain of control changes, even if actual control remains the same, they still need prior FCC approval.
The FCC today took what it called “a historic and long overdue step” to increase ownership diversity in the radio industry. Specifically, it adopted requirements that will govern an incubator program to assist new, small or struggling voices, including women and minorities, in overcoming the key barriers to entry into the broadcast sector. For many […]
Public broadcasters have asked the FCC to exempt noncommercial TV statiions from a regulation requiring them to broadcast using two different standards during rollout of the new ATSC 3.0 standard.
In a Des Monies Register op-ed, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel bemoans the FCC’s relaxing of ownership rules and the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger, saying “Washington should not be clearing the way for big companies to overwhelm local media markets. Because local traditions — and local coverage — matter.”
In anticipation of a Dec. 14 vote, the FCC today released the draft of the rulemaking on whether the national ownership cap on TV stations should be “retained, modified or eliminated.” It makes no recommendation, although FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is seen as favoring loosening the cap or eliminating it. With the Sinclair-Tribune merger pending and possibly in mind, the draft asks whether station groups that exceed any new cap should be grandfathered.
FCC’s Ajit Pai: “For over four decades, the FCC has restricted the ability of broadcast media outlets to also own newspapers, and vice versa, in the same market, under what is known as the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule. There’s ample evidence that the crossownership rule has led to less local reporting. Simple fairness is another reason to change the rule.”
Thirteen members of Congress ask FCC’s Pai to allow public comments on its plan to loosen station ownership rules.
The group of independent stations says the commission should to go further at its Nov. 16 vote on relaxing the ban against owning two Big 4 affils in a market. It also suggested that the FCC defer a final decision on the must-carry status of Next Gen TV signals.
Broadcasters have been expecting good things from new FCC chief Ajit Pai. And he didn’t disappoint with the agenda for next month’s FCC meeting. There was good news on two fronts. First was the plan to relax the local ownership rules. Then came word that the FCC will greenlight ATSC 3.0.
Thursday evening the FCC released details of its proposal to OK ATSC 3.0 and retrans plays a big role. Under the proposed rules, must-carry protection would apply only to a broadcaster’s ATSC 1.0 transmission, not its new 3.0 signal, at least during the simulcasting period the FCC is planning to mandate to protect consumers during the transition. But the proposed rules also make clear that broadcasters will be free to negotiate retrans consent deals for carriage of their 3.0 programming, even during the simulcasting period.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has told an opponent of Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media that the agency may review media ownership rules before ruling on the $3.9 billion deal, something that could delay a decision on the merger.
Preston Padden: “I have longtime friends who believe that the public interest requires the FCC to strictly limit the ownership of multiple TV stations. I genuinely understand and respect their opinions. But, my personal experience over 40 years in the industry suggests that TV ownership limits intended to enhance diversity may, in fact, prevent the creation of meaningfully diverse competitors.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the agency is studying restrictions on media ownership, characterizing a number of the rules as “quite antiquated.” In an interview Monday with Variety, Pai said that an easing of such restrictions “is one of the issues that is under consideration. We haven’t made any firm determinations there, either.”
Whoever Donald Trump appoints to head the FCC, broadcasters figure they should be in much better shape than they have been with the outgoing Tom Wheeler, who provided no relief on the out-of-date ownership restrictions. With Wheeler’s departure, the Republicans will suddenly have a 2-1 majority, a three-person quorum necessary to do business and the power to set the agenda that comes with the chairmanship.
The trade group says the FCC’s ownership rules have “left broadcasters to labor under outdated and unnecessary restrictions … that harm their ability to compete and indeed survive in today’s digital media marketplace.”
The FCC commissioner sets forth his stance on reforming the commission’s media ownership rules. “Broadcasters and newspapers have much to contribute in terms of diverse, local content, but many have been left fighting, some for their very survival, with an artificially-narrowed range of options. In general, they should be set free to compete on equal footing with all of their fellow content providers, not kept on an unnecessary and unfair regulatory leash.”
The FCC’s order makes it into the Federal Register, establishing deadlines for petitions for reconsideration and/or judicial review as well as the effective date of the underlying order — but what exactly will take effect on that date?
Congress on Friday sent President Barack Obama a bipartisan but deficit draining year-end budget package that includes language allowing broadcast joint sales agreements that were in existence at the time of last year’s FCC rule change to continue. NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said: “NAB salutes the bipartisan leadership of both parties in correcting a punitive regulatory overreach that would have unfairly harmed millions of local television viewers. With this action, Congress sends an unmistakable message that it continues to value broadcasting as an indispensable source of news, entertainment and lifeline information every day across America.”