Concerns Beyond The Broadband BuzzThe FCC’s current full docket also includes media ownership, retrans and media’s future 5/30/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Ther talk at the FCC these days seems to be all
broadband, all the time, but somewhat drowned
out amidst the understandable spectrum-issue
buzz are some key broadcast issues. And they will all need
to be resolved if, as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has
assured the industry, there will continue to
be a broadcast business left—and one
that will need more regulatory certainty
and maybe even a little help.
Media ownership rule review. If the
FCC does preserve enough of the broadcasting
spectrum and potential business
model to allow TV stations to compete,
they will need to know what the new
ground rules are in a world where the
FCC is effectively!promoting online video
as new competition to traditional delivery
as part of its effort to drive broadband
adoption and deployment.
Back in February, the Third Circuit court heard the challenge
to the FCC’s old media ownership rules and it is expected
to weigh in by July, according to Andrew Schwartzman of
Media Access Project, a public interest law " rm involved in
the challenge. “Media policy issues, like everything else, take
a back seat to broadband,” says Schwartzman.
An FCC official speaking on background says the commission
would not wait for that decision before acting on the
notice of proposed rulemaking stemming from the review,
which would, the official says, happen by summer’s end.
Retransmission consent. Comments were due at the
end of last week on the FCC’s proposed changes to the
retransmission consent rules. A couple of those changes
could have a huge impact on the business.
The commission proposed getting rid of the syndicated
exclusivity and network nonduplication rules, which would
allow cable operators to negotiate with nearby stations if
they run into retrans impasses. The National Association
of Broadcasters has said that could wreak
havoc on their business model.
Granted, the FCC has not yet weighed
in on deregulating broadcasting, but TV
stations—cable opponents in the retransmission
consent debate—have. Just last
week, the American Television Alliance,
which backs scrapping these syndicated
exclusivity and network nonduplication
rules, was touting a report that backed
wholesale deregulation, only because it
argued regulations were propping up a
The ‘Near Future’ of Media. The FCC
has also promised to produce a report on the future of
media, which it plans to factor in to whatever it decides to
do about updating media ownership regs.
That report was to have been released by no later than
the end of last year, according to original estimates. But an
FCC source familiar with the report’s progress would only
say it is now coming out “in the near future.”
Steve Waldman, the FCC advisor heading up the study,
indicated last month that the report would make a candid
assessment of FCC rules. It also apparently found that TV
stations remain a chief source of local news. Broadcasters
understandably want that " nding to inform whatever the
FCC does on media ownership.