FCC Releases Text of Quadrennial Review

Says broadcast ownership limits still necessary, pegged to diversity

The FCC has released the text of its quadrennial media ownership rule review.

The FCC Democratic majority voted not to lift crossownership rules or loosen local market station limits. "Based on our careful review of the record, we find that the public interest is best served by retaining our existing rules, with some minor modifications," the order said.

One of those is providing a "failing newspaper" waiver for newspaper-broadcast crossownerships similar to its failing station waiver, but the presumption is still that such crossownerships are out of bounds short of such extenuating circumstances.

The FCC pegged retaining the rules to program diversity.

"These rules promote competition and a diversity of viewpoints in local markets, thereby enriching local communities through the promotion of distinct and antagonistic voices. Ideally, our media landscape should be diverse because our population is diverse, and retaining the existing media ownership rules is one way in which the Commission can help to promote such diversity," the order continued.

As to the FCC's incentive auction impact on broadcasting, the FCC said it was too early to take that into account. 

"While the auction may have a dramatic impact on the television landscape in many local markets, based on our assessment of the record and the ongoing nature of the auction, we find that it is too soon to quantify this impact; accordingly, it would be premature to change our media ownership rules in anticipation of the incentive auction’s impact at this time," the order said.

The item resubmits the JSA-tightening rule—remanded by a federal appeals court—with the change that grandfathered JSAs can be sold without triggering ownership issues—as Congress directed it to do. So, any JSA of over 15% of sales still counts as ownership interest, but those in existence before March 2014 don’t have to be unwound, as Congress has already signaled in legislation.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the JSA tightening, primarily because the FCC changed the ownership reg before completing the reasoned analysis for the underlying rules that is supposed to happen in the quadrennial review.

The item also defines shared services agreements (SSAs) and will require they be filed with the FCC but does not make them attributable as ownership interests, yet.

The item extends the ban on co-ownership of two top-four rated TV stations to network affiliation swaps to prevent using those to evade ownership restrictions.

The quadrennial review was actually approved (three votes) several weeks back and officially voted (the two dissenting Republicans cast their votes) a couple of weeks ago, but the item was awaiting the commissioner's statements before being released. 

Related: FCC Republican Slam Quadrennial Order