Pai: We Can't Expect to Substitute Broadband for Broadcast
Says counting JSAs toward local caps would be 'unforced error' that could impede, if not destroy, local news programming across country
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/7/2013 1:25:53 PM
That came in a speech to the Media Institute Thursday. Pai wants the FCC to loosen the local ownership rules, so said he found it "amazing" that the proposal currently on the table would tighten them by adding the JSAs and possibly shared-service agreements.
Those proposals remain on the table rather than in the outbox, however, as the FCC continues to vet comments from parties citing potential impact of deregulation on minority and women ownership. The item has yet to be voted and FCC chairman Julius Genachowski appears in no hurry to push a vote.
Pai pointed to a JSA between two stations in his home state of Kansas where a Univision affiliate, an Entravision station, was able to create the only Spanish-language newscast in the state, and another in Missouri between Nexstar and Mission that allowed for expanded news coverage, he said.
He said JSAs were particularly important for smaller markets -- the ones where they would most likely be prevented by a new FCC rule -- where station revenue is a fraction of that in larger markets.
According to sources, the FCC could soften the JSA hit by pushing it into a further notice of proposed rulemaking, or grandfather enforcement, but that there continues to be impetus from the commissioner Democratic majority to could JSAs toward the local caps, as they already are toward local radio ownership caps.
Pai told B&C after the speech that he would be hard-pressed to support a Media ownership item that he will be hard-pressed to support the Media Ownership item if JSA's remain a part of it. "I would have great difficulty supporting an item that not only did not provide sufficient relaxation of our existing rules, but also tightened some of our rules that would impeded, if not destroy, the local news programming across the country, especially in local markets.
Pai also cited the FCC's Superstorm Sandy hearing in New York and New Jersey earlier this week as a reason for praising, rather than burying, broadcasting.
"I learned about the vital service that local broadcasters provided during Superstorm Sandy. When other methods of communications failed, broadcasters transmitted lifesaving information and alerts to the public," he said.
He then suggested that the currently broadband-centric FCC should include broadcasting in its world view, long-term. "As we head into the future, we can't expect to substitute broadband for broadcast. Instead, we should view them as complements."
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