Recently, we wrote about two cases seeking declaratory rulings from the FCC that non-US ownership of companies owning broadcast stations should be permitted even though that ownership would exceed the 25% standard that had been, until that last few years, the limit on such ownership. Last week, the FCC announced the filing of another such request – this one by Hemisphere Media Group looking to operate Spanish-language stations in the US. Unlike the petitions about which we wrote last month, this case does not involve a situation where the foreign owners are defined. Instead, the company is a public company, and thinks that, from time to time, its foreign ownership might exceed 25%. It seeks permission for foreign ownership to go as high as 49.99%. In many ways, this seems much more like the Pandora case (see our article here), where the FCC allowed a public company to acquire a radio station even though it could not prove to a certainty that its foreign ownership did not exceed a 25% interest in the company. Perhaps the only difference is here, the structure of the company is such that a control group of US citizens will own the company.
Comments on this proposal are due on or before August 29, with replies due by September 13. The decisions in this and the other pending cases may give us an idea on where the Commission is heading on its broader review of its foreign ownership rules (about which we wrote here). So watch for these decisions.