What will be the issues that broadcasters need to be concerned about in next year’s Media Ownership proceeding? To get a clue, broadcasters should watch and listen to the second day of the FCC workshop on multiple ownership, featuring members of various public interest groups in Washington the week before last (watch it on the FCC website, here). These workshops, as we wrote here, were held to start the process on the Commission’s upcoming Quadrennial Review of the multiple ownership rules. The representatives who testified on this panel discussed the issues that they thought should be reviewed, and facts that they thought should be collected, in order for the Commission to successfully complete the ownership review required by Congress. As these Washington "insiders" are sure to be the ones filing comments in the proceeding and lobbying the Commission on the issues, the agenda of these organizations are likely to set the grounds for debate in the upcoming proceeding. From watching this hearing, there are bound to be a number of contentious issues that will come up.
The panel was made up of representatives of five different Washington public interest groups – four that tend to favor more regulation and less consolidation. The representative of the fifth organization, suggesting just the opposite – that in the new media world, little or no media ownership regulation is necessary. While much of the discussion was process-oriented, there was discussion of specific issues that might come up in the review. Both the process – which included extensive discussion of the need for detailed industry information for informed regulation to take place – and the substance could cause problems for broadcasters. Substantive issues discussed included the need for more scrutiny of shared services agreements in the television world (as some saw these as a way of evading the FCC ownership regulations), and for ways to insure that there is more local programming as part of the process. One representative also mentioned the need to review noncommercial broadcasting as part of the ownership proceeding – which is usually restricted to a review of commercial operations.