The National Association of Broadcasters is suggesting the FCC keep the 39% national audience reach cap where it is for TV broadcasters, and extend the 50% discount for UHF stations to all TV stations.
As defined by current FCC regulations, UHF stations count as 50% toward the cap while VHF stations count as 100%. Under the NAB’s proposal, the extension of the UHF discount would effectively put the national audience reach cap at 78%.
In a filing, the NAB argues that “even comparatively large TV station groups are dwarfed by a number of pay-TV/broadband companies and online video providers, let alone the social media giants,” but that none of those competitors are subject to the same audience reach limitations.
“Competition for audiences and advertisers between over-the-air (OTA) stations, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), internet-delivered “virtual” pay TV services like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime and social media platforms is fierce and flourishing,” the NAB wrote. “The FCC’s traditional concern with localism, moreover, is effectively enhanced by local, not national, competition, and is more directly promoted by other FCC rules, such as those permitting efficient enforcement of TV stations’ local program exclusivity arrangements and those ensuring market-based negotiation of retransmission consent agreements.”
The FCC proceeding to address national TV multiple ownership rules has received a flurry of other comments in the past few days.
In a filing, the ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC Affiliates Associations urged the FCC to change the national audience reach cap as it applies to non-Big-Four-network-owned stations while retaining the current 39% cap as it applies to the networks.
“Such a tiered cap is necessary to ensure that the Commission’s ownership rules continue to serve their intended purpose: to protect and promote localism by maintaining an appropriate balance of power between national networks and local, non-network-owned stations,” the affiliates wrote.
Meanwhile the Free Press – which is currently involved in a lawsuit against the FCC over the media ownership rule changes that it alleges favor big broadcast groups like Sinclair – has argued that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to modify or eliminate the audience reach cap.
Meanwhile, pay-TV provider Dish Network is arguing that the FCC should maintain the 39% cap and eliminate the UHF discount in order to prevent further broadcast television consolidation that it says could ultimately hurt consumers. In a filing, Dish warns that further relaxing broadcast ownership rules would result in an imbalance of power between broadcasters and distributors, which could result in higher prices for broadcasters during retransmission and carriage negotiations. That could translate to higher prices for consumers, Dish said.