AGs In 8 States Call For Strict Nat’l TV Limits

The attorneys general say that the FCC lacks authority to raise the nominal 39% cap, but it does have the power to eliminate the UHF discount and it should exercise that power to prevent all stations groups from exceeding 39%. "[L]ifting or eliminating the national audience reach limit threatens diversity, competition, and localism," they say.

The Attorneys General of eight states — Illinois, California, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia — yesterday called on the FCC to keep a tight lid on how many homes TV station groups may serve.

The filing came in the FCC rulemaking aimed at loosening the national cap on station ownership. Although the rule nominally limits the reach of groups to 39% of TV homes, a so-called UHF discount used in calculating the reach raises the effective cap to as high as 78%.

Congress set the 39% cap so the FCC lacks the authority to tamper with it, the AGs argued.  However, they said, the agency has the power to eliminate the UHF discount and should use it to bring the effective cap back to where Congress wanted it — 39%.

Questions of authority aside, they said, “lifting or eliminating the national audience reach limit threatens diversity, competition and localism.

“Indeed, large media companies advocating for lifting or eliminating the limit or maintaining the UHF discount seek the opportunity to reach — and thus influence — as many Americans as possible without concern for the implications for a diverse media landscape.

“Such an approach, if realized, would significantly reduce the number of independently owned and operated television stations, thereby limiting competition, reducing station ownership by women and minorities, and inhibiting the ability of stations to create and disseminate content that reflects the interests and preferences of individual localities.


“Local preferences could be lost in other contexts like sporting, religious, or scientific programming if, as a result of excessive consolidation, a large owner requires all of its stations to show particular sporting contests, religious celebrations, or scientific perspectives, regardless of the popularity of those sports, celebrations, or perspectives in certain areas.

The AGs cite Sinclair Broadcast Group as an example of what will befall all of broadcasting if the UHF discount remains in effect or if the FCC raises the cap.

Sinclair has “distributed news stories and features that all of its stations were required to run in their evening or morning newscasts,” they said.

The FCC launched its review of the national ownership cap on Dec. 14, 2017. The deadline for the first round of comments had been set for Feb. 26, but, at the request of NAB, it was moved to March. 19.

Comments (11)

Leave a Reply

Tom Hardin says:

February 28, 2018 at 9:46 am

BS. Look at all the media conglomerates already that control the national print and TV media . Local? baa haa. with the proliferation of and the conflagration of Comcast, ATT, Nexstar, Sinclair etc., where really is the local? There is none.

    David Siegler says:

    February 28, 2018 at 9:57 am

    I would suggest that you support your local PBS station. In many markets it is the only locally owned television station.

    Erica Frisch says:

    February 28, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Now that is a bad joke. PBS is Local? Yeah, maybe once in a blue moon they’ll make a local show. Most of their local programming consists of fundraising appeals. What to get a good laugh, call your local PBS station and ask about getting a local public service announcement on the air!

Grace PARK says:

February 28, 2018 at 10:18 am

Harry, these states have a much bigger problem than this, although I agree with these AGs. The problem is the enormous drain of advertising dollars being sucked from local communities by web-based giants elsewhere. Most don’t or won’t acknowledge the size of this drain, but it’s absolutely off-the-charts, and it has the potential to destroy local markets. Ask Borrell to show you the loss of dollars that used to be spent IN LOCAL MARKETS over, say, the last ten years. You’ll be astonished.

Angie McClimon says:

February 28, 2018 at 10:23 am

The FCC doesn’t care. They are Republican-controlled. They’d kiss the ass of their corporate overlords.

Debra Rein says:

February 28, 2018 at 10:44 am

All AG’s from extremely Democratic states with the exception of Iowa which is 50/50. Looks like another failed attempt by the liberal left to prevent the SBGI/Tribune deal. Just stamp the approval already so we can move on and make money.

Patrick Burns says:

February 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

Airwaves are controlled by the FCC The AGs do not have a state airwaves board etc. Waste of money.

The big TV outfits are racing to the bottom I see rates in my DMA that are stupid low. But the GSM’s get crushed to meet the numbers no matter.

TV will end up like radio it seems happy with 1.5 % growth year – UGLY is around the next annual report !!

Joseph Koskovics says:

February 28, 2018 at 3:46 pm

The FCC should at least kill the UHF discount. In digital, it’s totally fraudulent. If you want top raise the cap number, let’s have that discussion, but using a ridiculous loophole like that is ridiculous

Gregg Palermo says:

February 28, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Big Government versus Big Business, who are the bigger crooks. I’ve got my mind made up.

Fred Corbus says:

February 28, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Really where were these AG’s when radio ownership went crazy and that competition was destroyed? Give me a break with streaming coming in, more and more choices and consolidation. News channels everywhere and social media, lifting the caps does not mean a thing. As mentioned you sat by while radio was hit hard.