Voice Rule gotta go
By BroadCasting & Cable Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/3/2002 7:00:00 PM
Editor: Your editorial "All news is local" in the Feb. 11 edition is "spot on," as my kids would say. While much is being made of raising or eliminating the 35% television-station ownership cap, of equal or greater importance in my opinion is the need to loosen the "eight-voice rule," which currently negatively impacts television operators in all but the largest television markets.
For all the reasons sited in the effort to repeal the 35% cap, this restriction must be loosened or eliminated. Does anybody really think that our only competition for viewers and advertising revenue in the medium and smaller television markets are the other television stations in that market? Aren't there already "governors" in place at other regulatory agencies (namely, the Department of Justice) to prevent "undue concentrations" of revenue share within an individual market?
As a local station operator, I can tell you firsthand that we deal with the same cable and DBS monopolies, 500-channel viewing "options" and Internet intrusion issues as the largest companies pushing for "cap" reform, because we all ultimately face these challenges at the local level. But, as everyone should know, the smaller the market, the fewer dollars to go around and less financial wherewithal to face these challenges.
Which brings me to my main point. In large markets, duopolies are all about money. We (Nexstar) have no problem with that. However, in small markets, duopolies are about survival plain and simple. They allow broadcasters to provide local news and community service in the face of the challenges and issues facing all of the players in the television industry, not just the largest companies.
We agree with the conclusion of your editorial that "at least the preservation of the news should be added explicitly to the list of waiver conditions for such small-market combos." However, Nexstar believes that, for medium- and smaller-market television stations to survive and ultimately have a chance to prosper, it is absolutely essential that the "eight-voice test" be modified, liberalized or eliminated.
—Perry A. Sook, chairman, president and CEO, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Clarks Summit, Pa.
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