Cross-ownership waivers on the FCC hot seat


FCCThe Supreme Court has elected not to hear any arguments about broadcast-print cross-ownership, and according to the FCC, that means the holders of current oft-extended waivers for existing combinations have until 9/27/12 to file amended or new waiver requests.

Media companies that have been filing for an extension until the issue of cross-ownership was finally resolved include Cox Enterprises, Inc.; Calvary, Inc.; Bonneville International Corp.; Scranton Times LP; and Morris Communications. The seemingly perpetual three-month waivers they have been getting instead have now lost their perpetuity.

The FCC said that numerous parties had requested a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court, and that on 6/28/12, the Supreme Court turned every last one of them down.

Here, straight from the FCC, is the upshot: “We hereby confirm that, as a result of the Supreme Court’s action on June 28, 2012 and pursuant to the January 12 Order, the deadline for the Media Parties to amend their waiver requests or renewal applications or file requests for permanent waivers, as set forth in the 2006 Quadrennial Review Order, is September 27, 2012. Further, as previously noted, because the Supreme Court denied the petitions for a writ of certiorari, the Media Parties are subject to the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule that is now in effect and their waiver showings should address factors relevant to that rule. In addition, we note that the January 12 Order provided the relief requested by the Media Parties (i.e., an extension of time until 90 days after the resolution of the judicial challenges to the Commission’s modified newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule); therefore, we dismiss as moot the Media Parties’ Motion for Extension of Time.”

The FCC said that inquiries concerning this matter should be addressed to Hillary DeNigro, Industry Analysis Division, Media Bureau, at (202) 418-2330.

RBR-TVBR observation: At least one company that may have had in interest in this proceeding can now sit quietly on the sidelines. Media General has spun off almost all of its newspaper holdings in favor of focusing on its television properties, and is planning to complete the print spin-off just as soon as it can find a buyer for its Tampa-St. Petersburg print properties.

For other affected companies, we have to imagine that their legal departments are shifting into high gear with the same general sense of urgency you find in the participants in a drag race.

Finally, when it comes time to grant or deny waivers, we hope the FCC keep in mind that this is not the best moment in history to suddenly cut a newspaper loose from its moorings and force it to sink or swim on its own.