Fritts: No reversal on 35% cap legislation

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National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts Thursday rejected
assertions that the NAB had flip-flopped on its support for legislation that would
roll back the cap on TV-station ownership to 35% of television households.

He noted that the trade group announced June 11 that it would oppose 35% legislation if
it also contained unacceptable provisions, such as a ban on local
broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership or forced divestiture of some radio stations.

Still, lawmakers friendly to the NAB voiced shock at the announcement, and
Fritts dutifully marched to Capitol Hill several times last week to patch up the
damage best as possible.

The NAB shocked Capitol Hill the day before by announcing that it agreed to work with
major networks to kill legislation that would reinstate the 35% cap on one
company’s national TV-household reach.

The move especially stunned lawmakers the NAB only weeks before had convinced
to sponsor the 35% rollback, which was intended to hem in the growth of
network-owned stations.

Fritts, however, insisted that there was no choice but to back off from what had
been the trade group’s legislative priority because any bill is increasingly
likely to contain additional restrictions that most of his members despise.

"The snowball was rolling downhill and becoming more difficult to stop,"
he told reporters Thursday.

Not everyone agrees.

"The NAB's decision to reverse itself on the issue of the national television-ownership cap is an unfortunate retreat from its proud history of support for
localism, diversity and competition in the broadcast marketplace," said Rep.
John Dingell (D-Mich.), a sponsor of House legislation to reinstate the 35% cap.

The Federal Communications Commission raised the cap to 45% June 2.

After the Senate Commerce Committee added those restrictions and others to
35% legislation, NAB lobbyists decided that there was no
way to assure that the objectionable measure could be stripped from those bills or
blocked from being included if the 35% rollback was tacked on to separate
bills.

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