NAB petitions for modest ownership rule relaxation


The National Association of Broadcasters told the FCC that broadcasters are committed to providing local and diverse programming in a filing on the Commission’s quadrennial review. NAB stressed that increased competition justifies modest changes in ownership rules, including bringing an end to cross-ownership restrictions, easing the formation of television duopolies and continuing to relax local radio ownership caps.

NAB said that broadcasters’ ability to continue to provide quality local programming to diverse audiences was under stress, and part of the problem is competing with services that have multiple income streams, while broadcast relies principally on advertising revenue. NAB wrote, “Existing ownership restrictions are not needed to ensure programming, viewpoint, source or outlet diversity in the 21st century media marketplace.”

NAB continued, “Simply put, it is untenable to maintain broadcast-only restrictions on the assumption that common ownership of stations could somehow reduce the ability of consumers to access diverse information or harm competition in the information marketplace.”

The cross-ownership relaxation was already partially put into place by the FCC, specifically in the top 20 DMAs, but remains hung up in the courts.

The television duopoly rules proposed by Michael Powell’s FCC in 2003 made them almost impossible to put together in medium and small markets where they are most desperately needed, and NAB wants them enable everywhere. “Same-market combinations improve programming generally and promote the provision of news programming specifically,” NAB said.

It said continued business challenges in the audio market justified continued easing of local radio ownership caps.

NAB also endorsed efforts to increase ownership diversity and the introduction of fresh ownership blood through access to capital and other initiatives.