The National Association of Broadcasters has told the FCC
that one of the most significant changes in the video marketplace through June 2012
has been the increase in consumer reliance on free, over-the-air (FOTA)
broadcast TV services, and to keep that service humming, the FCC should
consider ownership and attribution rule relief and preserving the retrans regime.
In its filing, NAB said that free over-the-air TV is now the
primary program delivery vehicle for 17.8% of (or more than 20 million) U.S. TV
households, a disproportionate number of them with Asian American, Hispanic and
African American heads of households.
NAB also cited an "exponential" increase in the
amount and type of programming, driven in part by the multiplication of
multicast digital channels -- from "2,518 channels at year-end 2010 to an
estimated 4,552 channels by year-end 2011," said NAB.
It also pointed to record highs in the number of hours of
news offered per weekday, and the second highest local news staffing numbers
The association says that more than 130 stations in 30
states are also making "significant" amounts of programming available
to handheld devices via mobile DTV.
"By improving their service offerings, broadcasters
have remained competitive and viable, in spite of a regulatory regime that
limits their ability to develop efficient combinations and attract
capital," NAB told the FCC. "The Commission should consider
regulatory relief with regard to its ownership and attribution rules to permit
broadcasters to realize greater efficiencies and investment. The
well-functioning system of retransmission consent also is critical to
broadcasters' ability to develop and expand their service to the public."
The FCC has an open docket on some light-touch, and
potentially not-so-light-touch changes to its retrans rules, the former
clarifying what it considers good faith negotiations, the latter proposing to
suspend exclusivity and non-network duplication rules during retrans impasses,
which would allow cable and satellite operators to negotiate with competing
stations. The commission is not expected to take any action on either of those
proposals anytime soon.
The FCC is also currently reviewing its media ownership
rules under direction from the courts and a periodic review required by
Congress. But it is not expected to take any action on that before the upcoming
election, and perhaps not until sometime next year.