NAB: ‘No Reason for FCC to Retreat On Cross-Ownership’

The NAB on Tuesday (May 6) encouraged the FCC to not retreat on its Dec. 18 reform of the media cross-ownership regulations and reject any pressure to update the rules stemming from the quadrennial ownership review order.
In its 32-page opposition to a petition requesting reconsideration of the FCC’s review order, the NAB said, “This order very modestly reformed the complete ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership and made no changes to the television duopoly and local radio-ownership rules. There is no reason for the commission to retreat from its recent modest revisions to the outmoded newspaper cross-ownership prohibition, which had not been reformed since its adoption in 1975. Claims in the petition that the ‘exceptions’ could ‘swallow’ the revised rule and somehow harm the public interest are unmeritorious.”
Revisions to the ownership rules have been a highly explosive issue ever since the FCC launched its 18-month national listening tour of America to determine how the media was servicing the consumer. Last October, a New York Times interview with FCC chairman Kevin Martin gave a pre-screening of the plan, enflaming critics over the possibility that a newspaper company could again own broadcast property in the same market where it publishes. And while the FCC reforms followed the guidance handed down by a 2003 Philadelphia Court of Appeals decision, the two Democrats on top at the FCC — commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein — along with many in Congress saw the reform as a Republican attempt to help big media get bigger business. The campaign to reject reform began in earnest.
But the NAB argues in its opposition filing that that under the revised rules, “Applicants will in fact have a high hurdle to gain approval for proposed newspaper/broadcast combinations (especially newspaper/television combinations) outside the top 20 Designated Market Areas. Nor are the standards for rebutting the negative presumption against newspaper/broadcast combinations in non-top 20 DMAs vague or otherwise insufficient to hold applicants accountable for their representations made while seeking approval of such combinations, as the petitioners contend. Relaxation of the outdated newspaper cross-ownership ban is clearly supported by the record in the lengthy quadrennial ownership proceeding, and modifying the rule is consistent with judicial affirmation of the FCC’s 2003 determination that the ban was no longer in the public interest.”