News Articles

Media Ownership Scorecard

4/13/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Pushed by Congress and federal judges, the FCC is reviewing all of its broadcast-ownership rules. For each rule, it must 1) scrap it altogether, 2) amend it and explain the change, or 3) justify keeping it as it is. Agency Chairman Michael Powell plans to vote on the review at a June 2 special meeting, a date recommitted to last week by Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree. Based on FCC filings and public statements, here's what groups—broadcasters, industry trade groups and public-interest organizations—actively lobbying the FCC want, including what some say ought to be done.

35% cap

The combined reach of one company's TV stations may not exceed 35% of U.S. television households.

Eliminate

  • CBS, Fox, NBC

Relax

  • Minority Media Telecommunications Council: Relaxation should be phased in to gauge impact on ownership diversity; create merger "diversity index" based on antitrust models; consider diversity credits companies could trade to boost diversity measures.

Retain

  • National Association of Broadcasters, Network Affiliated Stations Alliance, Cox Media, Media Access Project, United Church of Christ (UCC), Connecticut Attorney General

Newspaper crossownership ban

Broadcast stations and daily newspapers in a market may not be owned by the same company. More than 70 grandfathered combos currently exist.

Eliminate

  • NAB, Tribune, Hearst-Argyle, Gannett, Belo, Cox, Dispatch Broadcast

Retain

  • Media Access Project, UCC, Connecticut Attorney General

TV duopoly

Two TV stations may be co-owned in a Nielsen market only when more than eight separately owned outlets remain. Only one of the stations may be among the market's four top rated.
Eliminate

  • Sinclair, Paxson, Granite

Relax

  • NAB: "10/10" plan would allow pairs in smaller markets by permitting stations with a 10 share or greater to pair with ones below 10 share; case-by-case waivers for combos not meeting 10/10 criteria; triopolies in big markets among bottom-rated and financially struggling stations; count cable and satellite TV toward audience share.

  • Belo:
    Eliminate "eight-voice test" but retain prohibition on pairs among top-four local stations.

  • Hearst-Argyle: Permit in any market as long as collective audience share is 30% or less and combo passes Justice Dept./FTC horizontal merger guidelines.

  • LIN/Raycom: Allow anywhere unless all local stations would end up with one owner.

Retain

  • Coalition for Program Diversity, Media Access Project, UCC, Connecticut Attorney General

Radio/TV crossownership limits

Ownership of two TV stations and six radio stations is permitted in markets where TV pairs are permitted and 20 separately owned broadcast stations, daily newspapers and cable systems operate. In those markets, ownership of one TV and seven radios is also permitted as an alternative. Two TVs and four radios may be owned in markets with 10 independent voices; ownership of two TVs and one radio is permitted in smaller markets.

Eliminate

  • NAB, Clear Channel

Relax

  • Paxson: Replace voice test with ad-revenue test.

Retain

  • Media Access Project, UCC, Connecticut Attorney General

Radio-market measurement

Market size for purposes of local ownership limits is measured via complex system of overlapping signal contours.

Tighten

  • National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters-Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Inner City Broadcasting: Decrease number of stations a company can own locally by measuring markets based on Arbitron model, not overlapping signals.

Retain

  • Clear Channel

  • NAB: Change, if any, should be limited to ignoring signal contours of powerful out-of-town stations that boost market size and number of stations permitted to one owner.

Local radio concentration

Limits on local radio ownership are determined by sliding scale based on market size. In largest markets, the total tops out at eight.

Eliminate

  • Clear Channel

Retain

  • Media Access Project, UCC, Connecticut Attorney General.

Tighten

  • National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters-Rainbow/PUSH Coalition: Assess impact of each acquisition on minority ownership; eliminate temporary waivers for deal exceeding ownership limits; require station sales needed to comply with limits to be made at time of merger; "flag" and give extra scrutiny to deals that allow one owner in a market to control 40% of radio ad revenue or two owners 60% (rather than the current 50%/70% screen); make local marketing agreements count toward operator's ownership tally.

Dual-network rule

ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC are prohibited from owning each other

Eliminate

  • CBS, Fox, NBC

Retain

  • Network Affiliated Stations Alliance, UCC

UHF discount

Household reach of UHF stations is calculated at 50% for purposes of national ownership cap.

Eliminate

  • Media Access Project, UCC

Retain

  • Sinclair, Paxson

Fin-syn return*

Former financial-interest and syndication rules limited networks' in-house prime time shows.

Yes

  • Coalition for Program Diversity: Carve out 25% of prime time lineup for shows not produced outside Big Four nets' in-house studios.

No

  • Disney, Viacom, NBC, Fox

General rule elimination

  • CBS, Fox, NBC: Replace all rules with new technology-neutral "safety net" that measures diversity across all media, including the Internet, weekly newspapers and regional magazines.

  • Sinclair: Eliminate all local limits.

*Not technically one of the rules under review and so off the table for this review, according to FCC Chairman Powell, who promises to take it up separately.

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