With the holidays upon us and the end of the year fast approaching, the FCC took care of one piece of business required by statute as it released a Public Notice announcing the start of the 2022 Quadrennial Review of the FCC’s ownership rules. The FCC is required, once every four years, to review their local ownership rules to see if they remain in the public interest. The Notice starts the review required for this year even though the 2018 review remains pending with seemingly little likelihood of any action as long as the FCC remains politically divided (currently two Republicans and two Democrats with one open seat).
So, unless the 2018 review is decided and finds that some existing rule is no longer in the public interest and abolishes it, the just announced new review (the “Quad,” as those in DC communications regulatory circles call it) will look at the same issues as the last one did. Ownership rules governing the limits on radio ownership in each market, largely unchanged since they were first adopted in 1996, are probably the issue that could potentially affect the largest number of broadcasters (see our articles here and here on proposals for change in the radio ownership rules). Also under review will be issues including the Dual Network Rule, which prohibits combinations of two of the Top 4 TV networks, and a possible clarification of the Top 4 rule on local TV ownership. The Top 4 rule generally prohibits combinations of two of the Top 4 rated TV stations in any television market. In 2017, the FCC voted to allow parties to seek a waiver of that prohibition. Such waiver requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The proposal raised in the 2018 proceeding was to adopt some bright line tests as to when waivers would be permitted (e.g., allowing combinations of the two lowest rated stations if their audience share did not equal that of the first or second ranked station in the market).
Continue Reading FCC Starts 2022 Quadrennial Review Before the 2018 Review is Complete – Time for Another Look at Radio and TV Local Ownership Rules