The Federal Communications Commission is set to raise the 25 percent investment limit on foreign investment in U.S. radio and TV stations. Acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn put the item on the commission's agenda for its Nov. 14 meeting.
Had the decades-old 25 percent ownership been eased in the 80s, Rupert Murdoch wouldn't have had to jump through hoops and become a U.S. citizen to purchase the stations that eventually formed the basis of the Fox network. Groups like Univision Communications might also have had an easier time structuring investment.
Over the years, support for easing the rule has come from all sectors of the business, but particularly from minority groups, as a way to help minority broadcasters that often find it difficult to find capital and new investors.
"Approval of this item will clarify the commission's intention to review, on a case-by-case basis, proposed transactions that would exceed the 25 percent benchmark that restricts foreign ownership in companies holding broadcast licenses," Clyburn said Thursday in a brief statement.
The item is likely to get a positive vote from all three commissioners.
"Under our rules, a foreign company can indirectly hold more than a one-quarter stake in our nation's largest wireless carriers, cable operators, cable programmers, and Internet backbone providers. Yet that company cannot own a similar interest in a single radio station in rural Kansas. This disparity makes no sense, especially considering the difficult financial circumstances facing many broadcasters. Now is the time for the commission to revise this out-of-date restriction," said FCC commissioner Ajit Pai in a statement.
Several groups that had lobbied for the rule to be changed praised the action, including the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, the Coalition for Broadcast Investment, the National Association of Media Brokers and the National Association of Broadcasters.
"This is a textbook example of a deregulatory initiative that benefits underserved communities," said David Honig, MMTC president.