According to the testimony given yesterday by FCC Chairman Pai at an oversight hearing before the House of Representatives Communications and Technology Subcommittee, the FCC is likely to release today a draft of its order on reconsideration of last year’s FCC decision on its Quadrennial Review of its broadcast ownership rules (the rules restricting the
radio television cross ownership
FCC Extends Reply Comment Deadline in Multiple Ownership Proceeding
The FCC has extended to April 17 the date by which Reply Comments must be filed in the Commission’s multiple ownership proceeding. Comments were to have been filed by April 3, but several public interest groups requested more time to respond to comments filed in the proceeding by media industry groups and also to…
FCC Issues Multiple Ownership Notice of Inquiry – Formally Begins Quadrennial Review With Lots of Questions To Assess the Impact of Media Consolidation
The FCC yesterday released a Notice of Inquiry, formally beginning its Quadrennial Review of the Multiple Ownership Rules. While the FCC informally began the process of the Congressionally-mandated review of the ownership rules last November through a series of informational panels and workshops, the Notice of Inquiry ("NOI") provides the first formal opportunity for the public to comment on the ownership rules. The FCC will take the comments that it receives in response to the NOI, and formulate some more specific proposals on how it plans to change the current rules (if at all), which will then be released for additional comments in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The NOI is a broad-ranging document that gives little indication of the FCC’s final direction in this proceeding – though it does go into detail as to how the media marketplace has changed in recent years, citing declining advertising revenues, and more media outlets providing competition to broadcasters for both audience and advertising revenues. The NOI posed dozens of detailed questions asking how the Commission should assess the various aspects of the ownership rules, and what impact the changes in the media marketplace should have on its consideration of rule changes.
The FCC is concerned with all aspects of its media ownership rules. Thus, it sets out that it will explore the following rules:
- The Local Television Ownership cap, which limits owners to two stations in markets where there are at least 8 competing television owners and operators, and which forbids combinations of the top 4 stations in any market. Television operators, particularly in smaller markets, have been urging the Commission to allow more consolidation in those markets so that stations can provide better service to their communities. They argue that the current limits preclude small market consolidation, which is most needed in these markets where the costs of operation are not significantly lower than in large markets, but where revenue opportunities are far more limited.
- The Local radio ownership caps, that currently limit owners to 8 stations in the largest markets, no more than 5 of which can be in any single service (i.e. AM or FM). Some radio owners contend that these limits no longer make sense given the competition for audio listening from so many sources (including satellite and Internet radio, who can provide unlimited formats in any market). Other issues include whether AM and FM still need to be treated separately, and even whether AM should be counted to the same degree as FM in a multiple ownership analysis.
- The Newspaper-Broadcast cross-ownership rule, that forbids cross-ownership of broadcast stations and daily newspapers without a waiver – which, as the result of changes in the cross-ownership rules in 2007, will be granted on a more liberal basis, but only in the top 20 markets. Given the economic state of the newspaper industry, many seek the repeal of this rule in its entirety. As we have written before, will the newspaper cross-ownership rule outlive the newspaper?
- The Radio-Television cross-ownership rule, which limits the number of radio and television stations that can be owned by a single party in a single market
- The Dual Network Rule, that prohibits the common ownership of any of the top 4 television networks.
Each of these rules is up for review, and numerous questions have been asked, and issues identified, for consideration in this proceeding. …
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FCC Clarifies Application of the Multiple Ownership Rules After the Digital Transition Makes the Grade A Contour Disappear
The FCC’s rules limiting the common ownership of radio and television stations, and of television stations and daily newspapers, are triggered by the Grade A contours of the television station encompassing the city of license of the radio station, or the city in which the newspaper is published. Since June, there has been one problem with the application of that rule (Section 73.3555) – television stations in the digital world no longer have Grade A contours. When adopting service contours for digital television, the FCC specified a Noise Limited Service Contour ("NLSC") as essentially the equivalent of the Grade B contour of an analog television signal – the contour at which the majority of people can receive the signal a majority of the time. The FCC also specified a principal city contour – the signal level that needed to be placed over a station’s city of license. But the FCC never bothered to specify the Grade A contour, despite the fact that the cross-ownership rules were premised on that contour. In a case decided last week involving the financial restructuring of a radio company, the FCC’s Media Bureau staff decided that they would use the NLSC as a proxy for the Grade A contour until such time as the full Commission otherwise directed.
This decision actually makes common ownership of television stations and either newspapers or radio stations somewhat more difficult, as the noise limited contour, approximating the old analog Grade B contour, actually extends further than where the Grade A contour would have reached (when a digital station replicated its analog service area). Thus, using this standard, the owners of a television station could be precluded from having attributable interests in radio stations or daily papers in more communities than would have been the case in the analog world. As the FCC is now embarking on its review of the multiple ownership rules (as we have written before), the FCC may well revisit this issue in the course of that review.…
Continue Reading FCC Clarifies Application of the Multiple Ownership Rules After the Digital Transition Makes the Grade A Contour Disappear