Disney's Ownership 'No Comment' Still Suggests Some Regs May Be Outdated

Says FCC may find itself looking for ways to incent, rather than restrict, broadcast ownership
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Disney, which has pretty much stayed out of the debate on
media ownership rules, continued in that tradition this time around, while
still giving a shout-out to a more holistic view of potential regulatory relief
for broadcasters.

It did not file initial comments in the FCC's review of its
rules per congressional and court mandates, and in reply comments pointed out
that fact, but did give the FCC some advice.

Disney pointed out that it had fewer TV stations and radio
stations than it did almost six years ago, when it filed comments in response
to a previous ownership rulemaking.

In those earlier comments, Disney didn't advocate for any
rule changes, but said the FCC may find itself looking for ways to incent, rather
than restrict, broadcast ownership.

In its reply comments filed this week, Disney said it wanted
to reiterate that earlier point, and even put an exclamation point on it.
"Given the realities of today's marketplace," it said, "it seems
misplaced for the FCC to focus narrowly on the continuing relevance of and need
for the Broadcast Ownership Rules."

Instead, said the company, "We believe that the FCC
would be better served to broaden its inquiry to consider the full panoply of
challenges facing broadcasters, ways to incent ownership of over-the-air
broadcast stations, and whether some elements of the overall regulatory regime
have become outdated."

Given that the FCC is creating auctions to incentivize
broadcasters to get out of the business or at least reduce their holdings, that
would seem to be a tall order. But Disney suggests the auctions instead argue
for such an approach. "[S]uch a focus would mirror the path the Commission
has recently followed in crafting an incentive auction for spectrum, which
simultaneously recognized both the need for spectrum for such other forms of
media, while protecting the significant value that broadcast television
continues to serve."

Certainly broadcasters have been working to insure that the
auctions do the latter, with the National Association of Broadcasters helping
secure language in incentive auction legislation that requires the FCC to make
its best efforts to preserve the coverage areas and interference protections of
broadcasters who stay in business.

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