Could Congress Kill FCC Cross-Ownership Rules?


Funny what the election of a Republican as U.S. president can do to bring about change in the FCC’s media cross-ownership rules.

On Dec. 2, the NAB filed a motion with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals withdrawing a petition that asked the court to find the FCC’s media ownership order as arbitrary and capricious.

That’s because the NAB is confident the Commission will have a 3-2 Republican majority come Jan. 20, 2017, and is now asking the FCC to reconsider its 41-year-old prohibition of a single entity owning both a newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market.

While the Prometheus Radio Project and the News Media Alliance will continue their respective battles with the FCC on the cross-ownership rules active in the courts, two members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee may have fast-tracked the issue by way of a bipartisan bill to repeal the ban that was introduced Wednesday (12/7).

The bill’s co-sponsors are House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman (and House E&C Committee Chairman-Elect) Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and committee member John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) .

If approved, the FCC would have one year to end a rule enacted in 1975.

“This bipartisan effort finally acknowledges that our current media landscape is far different than it was nearly 50 years ago,” said Rep. Yarmuth. “As we’ve seen the rise in fake news and its consequences, it is increasingly important that we do all we can to protect legitimate sources of news. This legislation would give media entities the flexibility they need to compete and grow in this challenging marketplace.”

“Times have changed, and it’s critical our media ownership rules keep pace with the innovation era. This bipartisan bill is just the latest in our continued efforts to modernize outdated rules and promote investment in the communications sector,” said Rep. Walden, the owner of a small Oregon radio station group when he entered Congress. “Eliminating this relic of the disco era will provide much needed flexibility to the many newspapers and broadcasters throughout the country that provide important local news coverage and encourage greater investment in original journalism. We want what’s best for consumers and this bill provides a thoughtful solution that puts the public’s interest first.”

To little surprise, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith was thrilled by the bill.

“NAB applauds Chairman Walden, Rep. Yarmuth and their bipartisan cosponsors for introducing a bill to eliminate the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rule,” Smith said. “This legislation is an important step toward aligning outdated broadcast ownership rules with Americans’ 21st century information needs. For too long, radio and television broadcasters have been saddled with archaic regulations preventing them from investing in newspaper ownership. Striking this cross-ownership ban would save journalism jobs, create more investigative reporting and provide communities with greater local news.”


  1. Oddly, only a handful, or less, of newspapers have discovered that while they could not own a TV station in the same market they could through the use “leased access” operate cable-captive TV programming.

    This same law also would permit radio stations the same opportunity.

    Our national association, welcomes assisting sharing information about this with other media.

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