Washington

Broadcasters Back Ownership Vote Delay

Say FCC should allow time for results of diversity impact study 3/04/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Broadcasters who have been waiting years for some regulatory
relief from the FCC will have to wait a while longer—and
that, apparently, is OK with them, given the reason.

The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council has asked the
FCC for a “brief” delay in a vote on the FCC ’s consideration of media
ownership, and the National Association of
Broadcasters backs the idea.
The Newspaper Association of America
also favors a move FCC chairman Julius
Genachowski called, “a sensible approach
to moving forward and resolving the issues
raised in this proceeding.”

According to a senior FCC official, the
delay also makes strategic sense for the
commission since it may help the item
get enough votes for passage and boost its
chances in court.

The stay would push off a vote by at least
a couple more months, perhaps longer. The
FCC has appeared in no hurry to vote the
item anyway.

In a letter to the commissioners, the
MMTC requested the delay so it could conduct
a study on the impact of the rules on
minority and women ownership.

The study would be undertaken by BIA/
Kelsey and peer reviewed. “The study’s
methodology is designed so that the final
report should be completed, peer reviewed
and submitted to the commission
for its consideration within eight weeks of
today,” MMTC said. Then the FCC would have to vet it as well, with
Genachowski either modifying his proposal or concluding it was sufficient
as is.

The media ownership vote has been delayed for some time already
due to concerns about the impact of loosening newspaper/broadcast
cross-ownership regulations on diverse ownership.

Genachowski has proposed loosening the ban on newspaper/TV
cross-ownership and lifting it on newspaper/radio cross-ownership.
The chairman pushed for a vote by the end of last year. But minority
groups pushed back, pointing out that the FCC had yet to complete
diversity studies in response to a Third Circuit Court of Appeals remand
of diversity initiatives. That came as part of an attempt by former
FCC chairman Kevin Martin to loosen
the newspaper/TV cross-ownership rules
along the same lines.

Broadcasters have been looking for action
on media ownership out of the FCC
for years. But they have lately not been
pushing too hard for a vote, given that
they think loosening rather than lifting the
TV/newspaper cross-ownership ban adds
up to barely half a loaf; they also weren’t
really pushing on radio/newspaper at all.

The FCC proposal also includes counting
some joint sales agreements toward local
ownership caps, something that likely
has three votes on the commission and is
also something broadcasters don’t want to
see happen.

“The National Association of Broadcasters
reviewed MMTC ’s letter and agrees that
there is potential merit in additional datagathering
regarding minority ownership,”
NAB executive VP and general counsel
Jane Mago wrote in a letter to the FCC on
Feb. 25. “Accordingly, NAB does not oppose
MMTC’s suggestion that the commission
defer action…pending its review of
the results of MMTC ’s study.”

Separately, the FCC issued a public notice seeking comment on
a proposal by the Coalition for Broadcast Investment (of which the
MMTC is a founding member) that the commission look at proposals
to allow more than 25% foreign ownership in a broadcast property on
a case-by-case basis rather than the de facto 25% cap.

MMTC has argued that is yet another way to boost media diversity.

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