CBS and Fox have re-joined the National Association of Broadcasters.
It will be the first time the Big Four have been together in the association since 1999, and since the NAB was first divided by the issue of the national ownership cap. The networks wanted the FCC to raise the cap to allow them to buy more stations, while affiliates were concerned about the nets expanding their power. Fox exited in 1999, CBS in 2001.
But times have changed, with a new NAB president and an economy in which networks are not looking to bulk up their station holdings in a multiplatform world moving to new delivery systems. There are also issues like retrans and spectrum reclamation that have broadcasters looking to close ranks.
"The interests of our industry, our company and our viewers are best served by speaking with one voice on Capitol Hill, at the FCC and in the courts," said Fox Stations CEO Jack Abernethy in annoucing their return. "We look forward to working with Gordon Smith and the other member companies of the NAB toward our common goal of enhancing the enduring values of over-the-air television."
The reunion means 29 CBS stations and 27 Fox/MyNetworkTV stations will be back in the fold.
"As the media landscape evolves ever more rapidly, over-the-air broadcasting faces a number of clear opportunities and some significant challenges," said Martin Franks, executive VP for planning, policy and government affairs, CBS Corporation. "One of the very best ways to address these issues is through a resurgent NAB under Gordon Smith's leadership. We look forward to adding CBS's voice to NAB's efforts to preserve and enhance broadcasting on behalf of the public we serve."
One of the issues broadcasters want to speak with one voice on is retransmission consent. The FCC is currently looking into what, if any changes, to make to that regime. Cable operators want a number, including preventing broadcasters from pulling signals during retrans disputes and possibly outside arbitration.
The announcement serves notice that broadcasters have a more unified message, and comes as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association launches in Los Angeles this week. The timing is likely not a coincidence.