NAB, FCC top execs go head-to- head


Brand new NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith and other top NAB brass sat down for a chat with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowsky, who also hasn’t put very many miles on this desk. Smith asked for help regulatory aid in keeping broadcast journalism functions healthy and effective.

NAB Joint Board Chairman Steve Newberry and NAB Executive Vice President Jane Mago also participated in the meeting.

Smith requested moderate media ownership reform. The NAB has particularly been interested in loosening caps to allow more television duopolies and to allow broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership. Smith emphasized that such relief will help assure that broadcasters can continue to provide high quality news and information to their local constituents.

He also mentioned reinstating the minority tax credit and support for other tax incentives that might improve access to credit for would-be station buyers.

RBR-TVBR observation: Television missed the deregulatory boat. Back in 1995, we were expecting radio would get modest relief from the 1996 Telecommunications Act, maybe 100 or so stations nationally and an increase from four to maybe five or six stations per market. Instead, the national cap was eliminated in its entirety and the local cap shot up to eight for the largest markets, with the key provision that five of those stations could be in the FM band.

TV groups were allowed to expand their national footprint from 25% to 35% of all TV households.
Local TV got nothing.

The backlash from the subsequent formation of radio behemoths and perceived problems that came with them meant that TV was shut out again when Michael Powell brought the issue of TV duopoly up again in 2003.

As a result, television stations that are legally prevented from “getting married” with real signed documents blessed by the FCC are instead co-habitating under loose SSA, JSA, TBA and other LMA-type relationships.
The irony is that the rules allow television duopolies where they are needed the least, in the largest markets. Small market stations have a much more difficult time maintaining expensive local news operations; that’s where the economies of scale are most needed; and that’s where they are least available.

The NAB can focus a spotlight on this. But we aren’t very optimistic that it will go anywhere.