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.