Tomorrow, the Petitions for Reconsideration of the FCC’s multiple ownership decision is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register (see the pre-publication draft here). This will start the clock on comments on those petitions. If publication occurs as scheduled, comments will be due on Tuesday, January 17 and replies on Friday, January 27 (update: the actual Federal Register publication states that Replies are due January 24, but we believe that is probably an error, as the FCC rules require 10 days for a reply – watch for a further update). As we wrote here in connection with the comment dates on Petitions for Reconsideration of the abolition of the UHF discount, and here when we commented on the potential impact of the Presidential election of broadcast law, this may be one of the first opportunities where we will be able to assess the meaning of the changes in the membership of the FCC. We will see to what extent the new administration will be willing to roll back the decisions made by the FCC under its old leadership.
The Petitions for Reconsideration raise several issues, both for radio and TV. Questions are raised as to whether the local TV ownership restrictions continue to make sense in today’s economic world – particularly those limiting the co-ownership of any two of the Top 4 stations in a market, and limiting any co-ownership to markets where there will be 8 independently owned and programmed stations. Attribution of stations that are subject to a Joint Sales Agreement is also questioned. Finally, questions are raised as to whether the FCC is justified in imposing new filing requirements for documents relating to joint operations between TV stations, seemingly looking to collect information in order to impose in the future some sort of restriction on any sort of shared services agreement.
For radio, issues are raised about the counting of stations for ownership cap purposes when those stations are located in “embedded markets” in one of the two metropolitan areas where there are more than one embedded market. See our summary of this issue here.
For both radio and TV, the NAB challenges the newspaper-broadcast and radio-television cross-ownership bans and the FCC’s decision to leave those bans in place. The NAB also objects to the FCC rejection of a proposal for the establishment of an incubator program to encourage new entrants into the broadcast industry. See our list of some of the issues considered in the FCC’s August ownership decision here.
There are thus many issues on the table for consideration by the FCC. We’ll be watching to see how this proceeding progresses in the coming months, after the FCC’s new administration is in place.
Note: The Reply date above has been corrected from the initial posting of this article