local broadcast ownership rules

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • Congress passed, and the President signed, a continuing resolution to extend funding for the Federal government, including the FCC, averting

When you have been representing broadcasters in Washington for as long as I have, you see cycles in regulation of the industry.  I was reminded of how long the FCC has been on a deregulatory cycle in reading today’s Washington Post obituary of former Democratic FCC Chair Charlie Ferris, who headed the FCC many decades ago when I interned there and when I later started to work in private practice representing broadcasters.  One line in the Post article in particular stood out – where Ferris was said to have “argued that unless regulations were ‘improving the market,’ they ‘were nothing but a nuisance.’”  Since the administration of Chairman Ferris, the FCC has generally moved forward to implement that philosophy of eliminating unnecessary regulation, with only occasional consideration given to the reinstatement of certain regulations (efforts that were often unsuccessful).  With the spate of recent rulings from the FCC, one questions whether the direction that Chairman Ferris pointed the FCC is now being slowed or reversed at a time when the market may well be crying out for an increase in the speed of that deregulation.

The obituary itself quoted one media observer as suggesting that the deregulatory direction in which Ferris took the FCC might not have been entirely successful, based on a persistent lack of minority ownership of broadcast properties, and “’a shortage of local, professional, accountable reporting’ in many communities.”  But are those failings ones that are attributable to the deregulatory trends of the FCC, or greater marketplace forces that have strained not just broadcasting but all traditional media?  In reading the media headlines in the last few weeks, one can’t help but conclude that the latter is more likely the cause, and that another quote from Chairman Ferris cited in the article has never been more appropriate, as he warned broadcasters: “If you cannot compete with new technologies, you will be overcome by them.”  As we’ve argued in this blog before (see for instance our article here reflecting on the warnings of another former Chairman, Ajit Pai), given the slew of new technologies available to consumers, imposing new rules on a broadcast industry flooded with new competition for audience and revenues simply does not make sense.Continue Reading Just Because the FCC Can Regulate Broadcasting, Should It? 

A new year – and our annual opportunity to pull out the crystal ball and look at the legal issues that will be facing broadcasters in the new year.  We’ve already published our 2024 Broadcasters Calendar and, as we noted before the holidays, it highlights the many lowest unit rate windows for the November election.  With a heavily contested election almost upon us, there may be calls on the FCC to modify regulations affecting political broadcasting or for more monitoring of broadcasters’ online public files, which caused so many issues in recent years (see for instance, our posts here and here).  Even if there are no FCC proceedings that deal with the rules for political broadcasting, the election will be watched by all broadcasters, and all Americans, to see the direction in which the country will head for the next four years.  With that election looming, 2024 may be a very active year in regulation as there traditionally is significant post-election turnover at the FCC no matter which party wins.  With that turnover in mind, we may see Commissioners looking to cement their regulatory legacies in the coming year.

Last year, we noted the number of pending issues at the FCC that had not been resolved because of the partisan deadlock on the Commission while the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the one vacant seat was stalled in the Senate.  That deadlock was finally overcome by her withdrawal from consideration and the subsequent nomination and confirmation of Anna Gomez, who was sworn in as a Commissioner in late September.  Since then, the FCC has acted on several long-pending priorities, including the adoption of open internet rules and, for broadcasters, last week’s adoption of an Order resolving the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the local broadcast ownership rules (see our summary of that action here). Continue Reading Gazing into the Crystal Ball at Legal and Policy Issues for Broadcasters in 2024 – Part I: What to Expect From the FCC