NAB demands court strike down broadcast ownership rules


The National Association of Broadcasters is seeking relief from the FCC’s broadcast ownership rules, calling them “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”

The NAB has filed a petition (PDF) asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to throw out the rules.

The rules in question prevent things like owning more than two television stations in the same market and owning a newspaper and a TV broadcast station in the same market.

The FCC recently completed a quadrennial review of the rules that began in 2009 but was not completed in 2010, leading the FCC to merge it with its 2014 review. But, according to the NAB, the FCC has failed to take into consideration a media landscape that has dramatically changed over that timeframe.

“Yet even after this long delay, and despite the obvious transformative changes in the media landscape in the decade since the Commission's last completed quadrennial review, the Commission failed to take a fresh look at the broadcast ownership rules and to repeal or modify them in light of those changes,” the NAB wrote, adding that the FCC largely relied on conclusions from past reviews and reaffirmed rules with only minor modifications.

“The broadcast ownership rules are relics of a long-gone era. Many have not been updated in several decades, despite dramatic evolution in the communications landscape that has eroded the rules' original public-interest justifications and fundamentally altered the nature of competition – such as the decline of print newspapers, the meteoric rise of the internet and the explosion of multichannel and digital video and audio options for consumers,” the NAB wrote.

The renewed call for action on the broadcast ownership rules comes at an interesting time as the FCC could be preparing to review AT&T’s $85 billion mega-merger with Time Warner Inc. That deal has been called out by many, including President-Elect Donald Trump, as a merger that would consolidate too much power under one roof.

Of course, the arguments that a huge company owning the content and the pipe would be bad for competitors and consumers echo the policies that prevent broadcasters from consolidating too many media outlets in a single market.