Capital Watch


Disney Backs Dereg…But

ABC hasn't given up on the 45% cap, but it appears unwilling to expend too much political energy on it.

In response to a report that ABC owner Disney would no longer actively push to retain the FCC's increase of the station ownership cap to 45% of TV households, the company's top lobbyist, Preston Padden, said last week: "Disney/ABC continues to support deregulation of broadcast ownership. But because we are at 24%, the impact on our company of a rollback to 35% would not be as severe or immediate as it would be to other networks." Some network executives viewed the news as less a breaking of ranks than a statement of political reality.

ABC was the last of the networks to pull out of the NAB over that group's decision to push for a rollback to the previous 35% cap, and at 24% coverage it still has plenty of room to maneuver under the cap. With the issue becoming a hot one on the Hill, and bipartisan support growing to roll back the cap, some positions have become concurrently fluid. NAB backed off its push for 35%, then raised that standard once again as prospects brightened for a bill that would not also undo other FCC deregulatory moves NAB supported.

FCC Grants More Time

The FCC has granted NAB's motion to extend the comment and reply comment periods for defining radio markets in non-Arbitron survey areas—the redefinition stems from the FCC's June 2 ownership rule rewrite. But it only gave them an extra 30 days for each, not the six-plus weeks, and two months, respectively, NAB had asked for. The comment and reply comment periods had been Sept. 4 and Sept. 19. NAB, saying it needed to study data from a survey it had commissioned, had wanted the FCC to bump the deadlines to Oct. 20 and Nov. 19. Instead, the FCC, saying it needed to complete its proceeding in a timely fashion, while recognizing the "public interest" served by a brief extension, set the new deadlines at Oct. 6 and Oct. 21.

MMTC Needs More Room

While we're on the subject of FCC filings (see above), a coalition of groups led by Minority Media Telecommunications Council has asked the FCC to extend the page limitations on petitions to reconsider the FCC's June 2 broadcast rule changes. Current limits are 25 pages each for petitions to reconsider and oppositions to petitions to reconsider, 10 pages for reply comments. The groups want to double those limits, saying it is the most "far-reaching and complex broadcast ownership proceeding in history," and that it is actually six proceedings in one.

Read all about it

The Aug. 9 issue of National Journal document's NAB's lobbying challenges in a story headlined "Broadcast Blues." The generally positive piece chronicles the network/station split over the ownership cap issue and the "major policy challenge" it has "foisted" on the association. In the end, the piece's reporting suggests, NAB will continue to be a force to be reckoned with, even if it it does not regain the network members it has lost during the fight.

Copps Opines on Opie

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (above) has chastised the commission for failing to address indecency complaints about last Augusts Opie & Anthony show on WNEW-FM New York allegedly containing a broadcast of sexual activity at St. Patricks Cathedral. "Nothing has changed over the past year," and he predicted "things will get even worse." Copps, who has called for stricter indecency enforcement, blames media consolidation for part of the problem: "It stands to reason," he said, "that as media conglomerates grow ever bigger and control moves further away from the local community, community standards will go by the boards."