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.