Broadcasters Ask FCC to Be More Flexible on Foreign Ownership

Say FCC has de facto ceiling on broadcasters, but not its competition

A coalition of broadcast groups has asked the FCC to clarify
that it will not foreclose, but look at on a case-by-case basis, investment in
the parent company of a U.S. broadcast group owner that exceeds the FCC's de
facto 25% limit on foreign ownership.

In a letter to the FCC Friday, the Coalition for Broadcast
Investment, which includes CBS, Celar Channel, Hearst, Ion, Sinclair and many
others, sought clarification of that point, saying it "would enable local
broadcast stations to join their cable, satellite and online counterparts in
having the opportunity to gain access to significant new or additional sources
of capital."

Given that its competition does not have a similar de factor
cap on foreign investment, the FCC's policy is arbitrary and inequitable,
particularly when the FCC has liberalized foreign investment policies towards
common carriers.

They ask the FCC to replace what is a historic presumption
against such ownership to an actual case-by-case review using the FCC's public
interest discretion. "Absent a clear statement from the Commission,"
they say, "the marketplace will continue to assume that proposals for
above-benchmark foreign investment in broadcasters will not even be considered
regardless of the facts and circumstances presented or the merits of a
particular proposal."

Broadcasters are already sensitive to any signals that the
FCC is trying to discourage investment in broadcast stations since it is trying
to reclaim spectrum from them for wireless broadband.