New FCCer proposed commercially funded noncoms


The FCC’s new Chief Diversity Officer, Mark Lloyd, has come under fire for proposals made as a co-author of a 2007 report to bring some balance to the political leanings on talk radio, mostly for the Fairness Doctrine implications. However, other proposals put forth would partially funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with money collected from commercial broadcasters, and roll back local ownership caps.

The report, “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” provided statistics on the political leanings of political talkers, including use of conservative or liberal formats by group owner, and noted that the universe of stations was heavily weighted to the conservative end of the spectrum.

Much of the blame was placed on the authors’ belief that the ownership and management of groups was more conservative than the general population, and that the format use reflected their own preferences.

They proposed three fixes:

* Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.

* Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing.

* Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting.

The ownership cap proposal is probably impractical – even FCC commissioners who expressed a desire to do so, such as Jonathan Adelstein, have acknowledged that you can’t get the worms back into the can.

But just for hoots, here are specific recommendations made in the report:

* National radio ownership by any one entity should not exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations.

* In terms of local ownership, no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market, or specifically, more than:

* Four commercial stations in large markets (a radio market with 45 or more commercial radio stations).
* Three stations in mid-markets (between 30 and 44 total commercial radio stations).

* Two stations in smaller markets (between 15 and 29 total commercial radio stations).

* One station in the smallest markets (14 or fewer total commercial radio stations).

Taking steps to increase local accountability is a pending matter at the FCC right now.

The CPB proposal has not gotten much attention. The requirement to pay into the noncom fund would be imposed on stations if other regulator remedies fail. Here are the nuts and bolts:

“A fee based on a sliding scale (1 percent for small markets, 5 percent for the largest markets) would be distributed directly to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with clear mandates to support local news and public affairs programming and to cover controversial and political issues in a fair and balanced manner. We estimate that such a fee would net between $100 million and $250 million and would not overly burden commercial radio broadcasters. “

It’s not clear what number the 1%-5% sliding scale refers to.

RBR/TVBR observation: Lloyd’s focus on diversity would certainly make station ownership a matter of extreme interest for him, but he is not in a position to do much about ownership caps or CPB funding – both of those items are under congressional jurisdiction. And that same diversity focus should keep him away from Fairness or related issues.