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.
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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.”
As part of a federal funding bill that’s expected to pass soon, joint sales agreements would be grandfathered until at least 2025.
The Wall Street Journal reports that TV broadcasters are on the cusp of turning back one of the toughest pieces of regulation to hit them in decades. The rule, put in place last year by the FCC, cracks down on sharing agreements between local TV stations, arrangements that have helped broadcasters grow without violating federal ownership limits. Journal subscribers can read the full story here.
The FCC ownership regulations have shaped (warped?) today’s broadcasting business in many ways and determined what kind of station deals can and cannot be done. For example, the 39% cap means many large groups can’t merge because they are at or near the limit. But it so complicates their ability to exit the business.
In comments on the FCC’s ownership review, the trade group submitted a study that found, among other things, that duopoly broadcast TV markets do not lead to higher ad rates. It also found no evidence that in markets where broadcasters are engaged in a joint sales agreement or shared service agreement are broadcasters able to charge higher advertising rates than in markets without these arrangements.
The Media Bureau chief tells a Hill panel that since TV and newspapers are still most powerful media, the commission needs to continue to regulate who controls them. Rep. Henry Waxman agrees, Rep. Greg Walden objects, saying: “Without relief, I fear that local broadcast and newspaper companies will continue to struggle against unregulated competitors whose business models are not hamstrung by decades-old regulatory assumptions.”
The House Energy and Commerce Communications subcommittee will hear Wednesday from a handful of media groups, coalitions and the head of the FCC’s Media Bureau about whether the existing rules have stood the test of time, especially as new forms of news and entertainment have taken hold online and on cable channels.
A U.S. regulator whose vote is needed to change television-station ownership rules that may force Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. to sell assets is pushing to ensure smaller companies can win exceptions. Mignon Clyburn, a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Democratic majority, said in an interview she wants “balance” as the agency tightens regulations for controlling more than one station in a market.
NAB says that any reconsideration by the FCC of its UHF discount should be done within the context of a holistic review of media ownership rules.
The Seattle Times and its publisher, Frank Blethen, have long styled themselves as crusaders for independent journalism and freedom of the press. So, it’s both discordant and disappointing that a recent editorial in The Times called for heavy-handed federal government intervention to limit media companies’ ability to acquire and run more TV stations.
The cable group tells the FCC that the $90 million purchase of eight stations uses joint sales agreements to sidestep FCC ownership regulations that bar ownership of two of the top four rated TV stations in a market.
A new report from the media watch dog group Free Press accuses the Federal Communications Commission of turning a blind eye toward media consolidation in the television industry. The study — “Cease to Resist: How the FCC’s Failure to Enforce Its Policies Created a New Wave of Media Consolidation” — scrutinizes several major TV station owners including Sinclair Broadcast Group and Nexstar and says they are using “shady tactics” to build “national media empires.”
A well-placed industry source tells TVNewsCheck that the commission is working on a rulemaking that could eliminate the UHF discount used in caclulating a group’s coverage total, capped at 39% of U.S. TV homes. Such a move could impact Sinclair, which is near the 39% cap, but sources also say that current station portfolios may be grandfathered.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski today gave his support to a request by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council to delay the commission’s review of its ownership rules until MMTC can submit a study on possible impacts of changes. “In this heavily-litigated area where a strong record is particularly important, I believe this is a sensible approach to moving forward and resolving the issues raised in this proceeding,” Genachowski said.
The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council wants the commission to delay a decision on its media ownership rules review for at least a couple of months, while an MMTC-sponsored study looks into what impact FCC crossownership rules have on minority ownership.
When CBS torpedoed CNET’s planned “best of show” award for Dish’s Hopper, it may have also blown to bits broadcasters’ best chance for looser media ownership rules at the FCC. In a letter filed Tuesday with the FCC, public interest group Public Knowledge says CBS’s actions demonstrate unequivocally why the agency should ditch its proposal to loosen the rules, currently under review.
The comment and reply comment dates have been set for the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the congressionally-mandated Quadrennial Regulatory Review of the FCC’s broadcast ownership rules. Comments are due on March 5 and reply comments are due on April 3.
The FCC will propose modestly changing its media-ownership rules, FCC officials said today, although the agency will keep most of its limitations in place. The agency’s proposed new regulations would loosen the ban on companies owning a TV station and newspaper in the top 20 markets,
Broadcasters are urging the Supreme Court to loosen restrictions that prevent companies from owning newspapers, radio stations and television stations in the same market.
In a blow to Tribune Co. as its seeks to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings, the media company may be forced to divest broadcast or newspaper operations in several markets, including Chicago, following a federal appeals court decision Thursday. The decision overturned part of the FCC’s 2008 revamp of U.S. media ownership rules that made it easier to own a newspaper and a broadcast outlet in the same market.