Comcast wants the FCC to issue a ruling that Nexstar should be attributed ownership of WPIX New York , which would make it in violation of the commission’s 39% cap on broadcast national audience reach. The cable operator claims Nexstar’s divestiture of the station to meet FCC requirements in its acquisition of Tribune was a “sham.”
In House testimony Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai unveiled his dereg plan that would allow broadcasters to own two TV stations, possibly two network affiliates, in any market regardless of size, and operate still more stations in the same market through JSAs and SSAs. The current restrictions are outdated, he says. They presume that the market is still defined by “pulp and rabbit ears.” A full draft of his proposal is due out Thursday.
Ion Media CEO Brandon Burgess commended FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for restoring the UHF discount in calculating compliance with the 39% national ownership cap — a move that will allow Ion to be sold in toto even though its coverage (64.8%) far exceeds the nominal cap. “This action allows small entrepreneurial and consumer-oriented companies like Ion Media to continue to succeed in a consolidating media world,” he said in an open letter.
It did so by restoring the 50% discount on the coverage of UHF stations in calculating groups’ coverage. With the discount, a group can now blow past the nominal 39% cap and reach as many as 78% of TV homes.The FCC also said it will launch a rulemaking later this year to look at the national ownership cap in its entirely and consider raising the cap with or without the discount.
The FCC chairman, who has been unwinding Obama-era regulatory efforts, is putting two items up for vote on Thursday that would empower telecom companies and broadcasters.
The two House Democrats tell FCC Chairman Pai that restoring the UHF discount would further concentrate station ownership. They also say take a shot at Sinclair Broadcast Group.
If it does, the CBS CEO tells analysts, the company would be interested in buying more stations to reap still more revenue from retransmission consent and political advertising.
Last week, the FCC released its order eliminating the UHF discount. Under this discount, a TV broadcaster, in determining its compliance with the national ownership limit prohibiting any owner from having attributable interests in stations serving more than 39% of the nationwide television audience, would include in its count only one-half of the audience of any market served by a UHF station. There will likely be an appeal of this decision centering on the issues raised by the dissenting commissioners.
On Wednesday, the FCC issued a long-expected Order abolishing its 30-year policy of applying a “UHF Discount” when calculating a broadcaster’s compliance with the 39% national TV ownership cap. Those looking for a silver lining should note that the FCC also asserted its authority to change the cap, giving hope of eventual relief to broadcasters now pressed up against it.
They say all good things must come to an end, and for the FCC’s UHF discount, it appears that the end has arrived. On Wednesday, the FCC issued a Report and Order eliminating its 30-year old policy of applying a 50% “discount” to market populations served by UHF stations when calculating compliance with the 39% national TV ownership cap, declaring that “the UHF discount cannot be justified in the digital world.”
The FCC today tightened limits on owning television stations by eliminating the practice of only counting part of some stations’ audience, a move opposed by many broadcasters. The commission in a 3-to-2 Democratic-led party-line vote abolished the 30-year-old UHF discount. Under the eliminated discount, the agency counted only half of households in a TV station’s local area, when judging ownership against the limit of reaching 39% of U.S. TV households.
The FCC’s 39% cap may be all that is preventing Fox and CBS from acquiring more affiliates and converting them to O&Os. Consider what CBS CEO Les Moonves is saying and Fox is doing in Seattle. Fortunately for network-wary affliates, the current Democratic majority at the FCC is not inclined to loosen the cap and it is under little pressure to do so.
The Newspaper Association of America, on behalf of its nearly 2,000 newspapers, has submitted comments to the FCC that urge the repeal of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban that has been in effect since 1975. In its comments, the NAA said the low barrier of entry on the Internet has “created more opportunities for individuals to express their opinions and gather news and information through digital-only news sites, social media and blogs.”
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.
The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters suggests that rather than outlawing all JSAs and SSA, the FCC should let stations restructure them to guarantee that the operated stations would eventually be transferred to a minority owner or otherwise serve the public interest. If so, they would be given a waiver to operate for some longer period of time, say five years.
The new Republican member of the FCC also criticizes the commission for failing to live up to its legislatively mandated obligation to review the FCC media ownership regulations every four years, eliminating rules that are no longer in the public interest.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on a proposal to tighten up on the use of joint sales agreements and shared services agreements: “If the FCC effectively prohibits these agreements, fewer stations in small-town America will offer news programming, and they will invest less in newsgathering. And the economics suggest that there likely will be fewer television stations, period.”