Yesterday, the FCC released its text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Multiple Ownership. The text summarizes the findings of the Commission in its 2003 multiple ownership proceeding, the questions about those decisions that were raised by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and then basically asks for public comments – without making any specific proposals on how to deal with the issues that have been raised.
With so little guidance from the FCC, this is going to be a wide-open process. The FCC doesn’t give any hint on how it is leaning on any issue, nor even suggest how to address many of the open issues. Given the issues that were remanded by the Third Circuit to the FCC, and the broad spectrum of issues raised in the Petitions for Reconsideration (all of which will be considered in this proceeding, but on none of which the FCC made any comment or suggested any way in which they would treat the issues raised), there is almost no ownership rule that is off limits in this proceeding. In fact, the FCC could quite well revisit all the ownership rules decided in the 2003 Order, with the possible exception of the Television national ownership limits which have now been set by statute (though the FCC again raises the question of the "UHF discount" that goes into computing the national cap – asking if that discount should be retained).
A summary of some of the issues involved in this proceedings is contained in our client advisory – Multiple Ownership, Yet Again – sent out after the FCC meeting last month that announced the initiation of the new proceeding.
With so much to consider and so little guidance, this will be a long process.