Political portal: 12/17/07-12/21/07


The FCC Open Meeting of 12/18/07 provided more than enough fireworks to get the PR machines cranking at high speed last week. The big move was elimination of the blanket restriction on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership in the top-20 Nielsen DMAs, pushed through on a 3-2 party line vote. The ultimate result of this was to annoy just about everybody. Those opposed to media consolidation deplored it, and those looking for regulatory relief wanted the restriction lifted in all markets. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) quickly promised legislative measures to put a stop to it. * The FCC also took several steps aimed at increasing the percentage of minority and female broadcast owners, widely hailed by watchdogs who nevertheless were greatly dissatisfied with the non-specific small-business-oriented definition of the businesses standing to benefit from the measures. * The FCC also is opening a rulemaking into adding regulatory measures aimed at increasing localism. It holds the promise of reporting requirements and the possibility of mandates involving local affairs programming and inclusion of local talent on playlists — it was greeted with extreme wariness by broadcasters. * The FCC also capped MVPD national subscribership to no more than 30% of the sub base, but avoided mandating a la carte channel menus.
RBR/TVBR observation: A lot of what happened in the meeting is destined for challenge on both Capitol Hill and in the courts; more is up for comment. The meeting ended the regulatory year with an extremely loud bang, but the echoes figure to last well into 2008 and beyond. Stay tuned.