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Big Broadcasters Weigh in on Radio Ownership Changes

Deadline for reply comments is May 29

As the comment deadline approaches, the broadcast industry continues to share its concerns and wishes about the future of broadcast radio and television ownership.

The Federal Communications Commission now has a thick sheaf of comments from which to piece through as it contemplates exactly how to proceed when it comes to revising radio ownership rules as part of the commission’s ongoing Quadrennial Review.

The calls have ranged from “do no harm” to “keep the status quo.” Now that the final reply comment deadline is less than a week away — May 29 — the comments continue to roll in from small-market broadcasters, individual listeners, broadcast associations and nonprofit organizations.

[Read: NAB to FCC: Revise Ownership Rules to Support Radio]

Salem Media Group is one of those broadcasters who met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to express opposition to any changes in the local radio ownership rules. Salem CEO Edward Atsinger pointed out the industry division on the issue of broadcast deregulation, noting that groups like Urban One and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters are one of several groups standing firm against the proposal put forward in the proceeding by the National Association of Broadcasters.

Specifically, Atsinger expressed concern with the “foreseeable and troubling migration of content from the AM band to the FM band,” noting past content migration concerns in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Ga. Salem requests the FCC retain all the local ownership rules on AM radio, although Atsinger said he recognizes there may be some modest benefit to possibly removing only the subcaps on AM.

Cumulus Media took a separate tact by expressing its strong support for the NAB proposal.

“The broadcast radio industry is facing unprecedented competition from other audio, as well as non-audio, sources for both audience and advertising dollars,” said Collin R. Jones, senior vice president of corporate development and strategy for Cumulus Media. “Relaxing the FCC’s ownership regulations will enhance investment in the business, increase the ability of radio broadcasters to successfully compete, and help provide local stations with the necessary resources to serve their listeners.”

The NAB is proposing three main changes. One, that the FCC change its ownership rules so that a single entity can own or control up to eight commercial FM stations in Nielsen Audio markets 1–75 with no cap on AM ownership; two, that a licensee have the ability to own up to two more commercial FM stations (up to 10 FMs) if that licensee participates in the FCC’s incubator program; and three, that it eliminate restrictions on the number of commercial FM or AM stations a single entity can own in both unrated markets and those outside of the top 75.

Comments submitted in regard to the Quadrennial Review process can be found at the FCC’s ECFS database using Media Bureau Docket Number 18-349. The deadline for reply comments is May 29.

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