FCC’s media ownership rules proposal draws mixed reactions

FCC

The FCC is putting a proposal regarding changes to media ownership rules—which prevent companies from owning multiple TV stations, radio stations and newspapers in one market—on the agenda for its November open meeting.

The FCC will seek to eliminate current rules which prevent companies from owning both a newspaper and a full-power broadcast station (AM, FM or TV) in the same markets they serve.

The commission will also seek to eliminate rules that prevent one company from owning more than two TV stations and one radio station in a single market, unless that market exceeds a size requirement. In that case, separate rules limiting ownership of TV stations and radio stations would remain in place.

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The commission will also seek to modify the requirements that need to be met in order for one company to own two television broadcast stations in one market. Specifically, the FCC will eliminate the eight-voices rule that requires eight independently owned television stations to remain after ownership of two stations in that market is combined. The FCC also wants to allow for case-by-case review of the rule that states station ownership in a single market can’t be combined unless at least one of those stations is not the top four for that market.

RELATED: FCC’s Pai set to ‘modernize’ FCC rules, ‘cut red tape’ for broadcasters and cable companies

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai revealed Wednesday at a congressional hearing his plans to update the rules, saying the market is “nothing like it was in 1975,” according to The New York Times.

That comment aligns with what Pai earlier this year told a crowd of broadcasters during the National Association of Broadcaster’s annual convention in Las Vegas.

“We want to make sure the rules match the reality of 2017, not 1987,” Pai said.

NAB came out in support of the proposal, praising Pai for helping broadcasters compete with telecom, cable and satellite companies that have grown stronger through consolidation.

"This nonsensical regulatory approach has harmed the economic underpinning of newspapers, reduced local journalism jobs, and punished free and local broadcasters at the expense of our pay TV and radio competitors. We look forward to rational media ownership rules that foster a bright future for broadcasters and our tens of millions of listeners and viewers,” said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for NAB, in a statement.

Broadcast group Tegna also praised Pai for updating the rules to account for how ubiquitous the internet has become since they were first enacted.

“Localism and local journalism will be greatly enhanced by allowing broadcast station owners to combine duplicative resources, and our local consumers will benefit if stations have the scale necessary to compete with massive distribution and technology companies who don’t share our local values and mandates,” said Dave Lougee, president and CEO of Tegna, in a statement.

However, policy group Free Press condemned the proposal.

“We need to strengthen local voices and increase viewpoint diversity, not surrender our airwaves to an ever-smaller group of giant conglomerates,” Craig Aaron, president of the group, told Bloomberg. “Pai is clearly committed to doing the bidding of companies like Sinclair and clearing any obstacles to their voracious expansion.”

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