Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn is taking a step long advocated by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council – she’s looking to open the door to greater investment by foreign capital sources in US broadcast licenses. MMTC was quick to praise the move, and was joined by the NAB.
Clyburn has put the issue on the agenda for the November Open Meeting scheduled for 11/14/13.
She said, “Today, I circulated a declaratory ruling that clears the way for increased access to capital and potential new investors for the broadcast sector. Approval of this item will clarify the Commission’s intention to review, on a case-by-case basis, proposed transactions that would exceed the 25 percent benchmark that restricts foreign ownership in companies holding broadcast licenses. I look forward to working with my colleagues toward a final Commission vote next month.”
Added FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, “I am very pleased that Chairwoman Clyburn has circulated an item to modernize the agency’s approach to foreign investment in the broadcasting business. Over a year ago, I called for the elimination of the de facto ban on any foreign investment in a U.S. broadcast holding company that exceeds a 25 percent benchmark.1 I am now optimistic that we will take that step at our next Commission meeting. Under our rules, a foreign company can indirectly hold more than a one-quarter stake in our nation’s largest wireless carriers, cable operators, cable programmers, and Internet backbone providers. Yet that company cannot own a similar interest in a single radio station in rural Kansas. This disparity makes no sense, especially considering the difficult financial circumstances facing many broadcasters. Now is the time for the Commission to revise this out-of-date restriction. I applaud the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and the Coalition for Broadcast Investment for their leadership on this issue. They have persuasively explained how modernizing our foreign investment rules will enhance ownership diversity and give broadcasters greater access to capital. I also thank all of those at the Commission who engaged in the intra-governmental coordination necessary to move this proposal forward.
MMTC President David Honig stated, “We are delighted the Commission is taking steps to address access to capital, an endemic problem for minorities in broadcasting, and therefore expanding the diversity of information available to the public. This is a huge victory for the Clyburn Commission and for struggling broadcasters. It’s also a textbook example of a deregulatory initiative that benefits underserved communities.”
In a statement, MMTC explained its advocacy for the measure: “MMTC, along with over 50 national civil rights, intergovernmental, entrepreneur, and professional groups, has petitioned the Commission to amend the rules for eight years. The organizations have cited the lack of domestic investment in diverse radio stations and the relief foreign investment capital would provide to American broadcasters, especially minority entrepreneurs. The move would also facilitate American broadcasters’ reciprocal entry into diverse overseas markets hungry for African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American music and culture.”
NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith stated, “NAB applauds Acting FCC Chairwoman Clyburn for proposing that the Commission should consider foreign investment in U.S. broadcast properties the same way it considers such investments in other telecommunications properties. This is fundamentally fair and will serve the public interest. Permitting new potential sources of capital for American radio and TV stations will strengthen our ability to continue providing compelling news, entertainment and sports programming and to remain competitive in a multichannel digital world.”