FCC to Change Broadcast Media Ownership Rules


     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Federal Communications Commission said it plans to eliminate rules limiting cross-ownership of TV and radio stations in local media markets.
     The Local Radio/TV Cross-Ownership rule imposes restrictions based on a sliding scale that varies by the size of the market.
     For example, in markets with 20 independently owned TV and radio stations, major newspapers, or cable systems – an entity can own up to two TV and six radio stations.
     In the smallest markets, an entity can own at most two TV stations and one radio station.
     The FCC says the rule is unnecessary because two other rules limiting the number of TV and radio stations an entity owns are sufficient to preserve what it calls “diverse media voices.”
     The first, the Local TV Multiple Ownership Rule allows owning up to two local stations if one of them is not ranked among the top four stations in the market, and there are at least eight other independently owned stations.
     The second, the Local Radio Ownership Rule allows corporations to own up to eight stations in markets with at least 45 stations. Broadcasters can own no more than five stations on either the FM or AM bandwidth. The radio rule also operates on a sliding scale so that in the smallest radio markets, those with 14 or fewer stations, a broadcaster may own only up to five stations.
     The FCC also seeks comment on another matter.
     The FCC is required, under the Telecommunications Act, to review its rules every four years to determine if they are necessary to maintain competition and diverse viewpoints in the media.
     Parts of the 2008 review were vacated last year by the 3rd Circuit. The court tossed the definition of diversity the FCC uses to encourage ownership by minorities and women, saying it lacked “a sufficient analytical connection” to the issues facing those potential owners.
     In response, the agency is asking the public for comments on how its ownership rules and policies can promote greater minority and women ownership of broadcast stations.
     The 3rd Circuit also vacated the FCC’s plan to lower restrictions on cross ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations. In the current review, the FCC has concluded that the restriction is still needed in some markets to promote “viewpoint diversity.”
     The public has until March 5 to submit comments on the proposed rule, which changes the ways the FCC can promote ownership diversity consistent with the 3rd Circuit’s rulings.

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