TV station and group comments in the FCC media ownership review proceeding are increasingly taking on the character of SOS signals from companies claiming their very survival is at risk if ownership regs are not loosened.
The 111 TV stations making up the Smaller Market Broadcasters Coalition, in filings to the FCC Monday, argued that their stations are under seige and the FCC needs to allow TV duopolies in smaller markets or their news will continue to be cutback, and some stations may have to go dark altogether.
Struggling stations, and certainly dark ones, are not the public servants the FCC wants them to be, they argue. Citing the drain on resources of the DTV transition and the continuing subdivision of the ad pie among competitors, the group says that the "public interest goals at issuein the proceeding cost money," and that financial viability is "therefore a necessary predicate to achieve them." In other words: Help!
That cry was echoed in comments from Hearst-Argyle (H-A), which argues that stations in all 210 markets "must be able to consolidate and achieve greater economies of scale" in order to compete with new video platforms. That includes more duopolies even than the FCC's deregulatory rewrite in 2003 would have allowed--H-A thinks there should'nt be a ban on duopolies among the top four stations in a market, as the FCC proposed last time around, and it wants immediate removal of the ban on newspaper-broadcast crossownership in the same market.
TO make its point about the competition for eyeballs, H-A included a list of a couple hundred TV shows now available on iTunes.
Nexstar also proposed scrapping the top-four prohibition on duopolies, saying it unfairly discriminates against medium and smaller markets and relegates those stations to second-class citizens simply fighting for survival.