Ownership rules on the docket


Even though the last ownership rule review, the one kicked off by Michael Powell in the Fall of 2002, has never really been resolved, the FCC is obliged to kick off the next one, scheduled for release in 2010. A series of forums will start off the process beginning next month.

In a release, the FCC said the forums are designed to get input into the “appropriate scope and methodology” for the proceeding, particularly “the state of the current media marketplace and the role of the media ownership rules in that marketplace.”

The FCC wants input from every conceivable source. The kick-off November event, planned for early in the month, will be an opportunity for academics, stakeholders and public interest groups to weigh in.

RBR-TVBR observation: We have no idea what sorts of things might wind up in this proceeding, but we would not be surprised if localism and ownership diversity issues leak into it. However, we do not expect any further deregulation.

Radio ownership was deregulated big time in 1996, but television never had similar relief come its way and in many middle to smaller markets, the television industry has resorted to SSAs, JSAs and other back room arrangements to get some of the benefits that would accrue from owning a pair of stations.

Significant relief for newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership combinations has similarly been thwarted, with Kevin Martin’s attempt to at least free up cross-ownership the top 20 DMAs still pending in the courts.

We strongly suspect that the sad state of the radio industry and the fact that the biggest radio consolidator, Clear Channel, wishes to sell off stations but can’t, should be all that’s needed to put a halt to any suggestions for deregulation of any sort. The word itself has been tagged with a bad rep, and the wrong party is in control for that reputation to be overcome, now matter how well-intentioned and well-reasoned pleas for limited dereg may be.