The next FCC open meeting is on the books for 11/30/12, and it’s looking like it will finally take a vote on the latest quadrennial review of media ownership rules. And the general consensus is that there will be at least some deregulation.
Most likely, rules restricting cross-ownership of broadcast and newspaper assets in the same market will be stricken, at least in the top 20 Nielsen DMAs, much as was attempted by Chairman Kevin Martin before current Chairman Julius Genachowski took over the agency.
According to the Los Angeles Times, it doesn’t appear that there is the same kind of opposition to such a move as has existed in the past. It is speculated that this is due in part to the continued dire straits of the newspaper business, and in part because some television/newspaper combinations have been broken up voluntarily.
The biggest case in point on the latter count was the sale of all newspaper properties by Media General, which excised its print properties to concentrate on its broadcast and associated digital assets.
LAT has an interest in such a proceeding – it is co-owned with CW KTLA in Los Angeles, and its sister newspaper The Chicago Tribune is co-owned with CW WGN.
It is also speculated that little else will change – Martin’s attempt to deregulate was far less ambitious than that of his predecessor Michael Powell, and it’s thought that the current FCC administration will follow Martin’s lead on that count, and largely leave local broadcast ownership caps in place.
Broadcasters have been hopeful of relaxed rules on the television side in particular, where consolidation is impossible in many smaller markets. Some broadcast television licensees have been using SSAs and JSAs to gain some of the back room financial efficiencies that a pair or trio of consolidated local stations would offer when they are unable to apply to own a station outright.