More delay in new FCC ownership proceeding expected


Depending on your point of view, former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s change to the rules regarding broadcast/print cross-ownership – just about the only thing he tried to change in the 2006 Quadrennial Review – was modest or over-reaching. But it’s still locked up in court, and that is among the things preventing movement on the 2010 Quadrennial Review.

Martin attempted to legalize cross-owned combos in the top 20 Nielsen DMAs, and tried to grant permanent grandfathered status to a number of such combinations that had been established in smaller markets.
The existing combos have been continuing to exist under waivers that are routinely granted every three months.

According to an article in The Nation, the court review, taking place at the Third Circuit, is expected to be complete this summer. Observers on all sides do not expect the FCC to move forward with the new review of the rules until that case is settled.

Further, studies the FCC was supposed to produce to guide the review of the rules have been hampered by lack of funding – Congress hasn’t come forth with the cash to make the studies possible.

Commissioners Robert McDowell (R) and Michael Copps (D) represented the polar opposite positions on the matter.

Copps believes consolidation is a major problem, he would rather see it rolled back than see additional relaxation of the rules, and does not want to see the same type of consolidation he sees in broadcast and cable take over the internet as well.

McDowell, on the other hand, sees two communications platforms – broadcast and print – that are struggling to survive in the new digital world. He thinks regulatory burdens need to be lifted to help them do so.

The NAB has consistently stated that it would like to see only modest relaxation of the rules. It has been seeking to make it easier for cross-owned combinations to exist. It also wishes to see the rules relaxed in regards to local broadcast television. Currently, owning two stations in one market is next to or entirely impossible in many smaller DMAs where the savings offered by increased operational efficiency are most needed.

RBR-TVBR observation: Much of what Michael Powell attempted to do back in 2003, when it was a biennial review, remains undone. In fact, for the most part Martin just left it alone and went for one small part of it. Will we still be marking time when the 2014 Quadrennial Review rolls around?