November FCC Meeting Big for TV Station Owners

Posted on October 31st, 2017 by

One week before Thanksgiving, the FCC is set to vote on a number of actions at its monthly meeting (agenda here), perhaps none more significant than a TV ownership deregulatory action that promises to shake up the TV world.

The FCC’s anticipated action, summarized in this draft Report & Order released under Chairman Pai’s transparency initiative, actually dates back to an August 2016 FCC action. Under the prior administration at that time, the FCC voted 3-2 to leave the TV ownership restrictions in place. The two Republican FCC Commissioners at the time, now in the majority, voted against that order, noting that the ownership restrictions were outdated and unnecessary. Several parties filed petitions for reconsideration of the August 2016 R&O, and that’s what the FCC is set to act on in November.

If adopted as drafted, the FCC will (a) eliminate the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule because it is no longer necessary to promote viewpoint diversity and prevents combinations that would enable both broadcasters and newspapers to better serve the public interest, (b) eliminate the Radio/Television Cross-Ownership Rule because it is no longer necessary to promote viewpoint diversity in the modern media marketplace, (c) revise the Local Television Ownership Rule to eliminate the Eight-Voices Test and to incorporate a case-by-case review option in the Top-Four Prohibition to better reflect the competitive conditions in local markets, (d) eliminate the attribution rule for television JSAs, finding that they are beneficial agreements that serve the public interest by allowing television broadcasters to better serve their local markets, (e) retain the disclosure requirement for SSAs involving commercial television stations, and (f) adopt an incubator program and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on how to structure the program.

As part of this overall action related to ownership, the FCC has tentatively declined (for now) to change the radio ownership limits, which currently restrict a single entity from owning more than eight radio stations in the largest markets.