The FCC announced on Friday that it will be hosting a symposium on the state of the broadcast industry on November 21. On that day, there will be a panel in the morning on the state of the radio industry and one in the afternoon on television. The Public Notice released Friday lists a diverse group of panelists, but says little beyond the fact that the forum will be occurring. What could be behind the Commission’s decision to host this session?
The FCC is working on its Quadrennial Review of its ownership rules (see our articles here and here). There were many who expected that review to be completed either late this year or early next, with relaxation of the radio ownership rules thought to be one of the possible outcomes. Of course, quick action may have been derailed by the decision of the Third Circuit Court of the Appeals to vacate and remand the Commission’s 2017 ownership order. The court’s decision unwinds the FCC’s 2017 order which included abolition of the broadcast newspaper cross-ownership rule and the rule that limited one owner from owning two TV stations in the same market unless there were 8 independent television operators in that market – see our article here on the 2017 decision and our article here on the Third Circuit’s decision. The basis of the Third Circuit decision was that the FCC did not have sufficient information to assess the impact of its rule changes on minority ownership and other potential new entrants into broadcast ownership. If the FCC did not have enough information to justify the 2017 decisions, many believe any further changes in its rules are on hold until the FCC can either satisfy the court’s desire for more information on minority ownership or until there is a successful appeal of that decision. Even though FCC changes to its ownership rules may be in abeyance, the November 21 forum can shed light on the current state of the industry and why changes in ownership rules may be justified.