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Kentucky Senator Introduces Bill to Repeal Broadcast Ownership Limits

It would also allow joint negotiations with big tech companies

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has introduced a bill that, if passed, would repeal all broadcast ownership limits. The draft bill, titled the “Local News and Broadcast Media Preservation Act,” moves to abolish local radio and television ownership rules; all in the name of helping broadcasters better compete with Big Tech.

According to a press release introducing Paul’s bill, this proposed legislation “would give local broadcasters and newspapers much-needed relief from outdated government restrictions that are currently threatening their ability to succeed in an evolving media environment.”

In the release, Paul said his bill would exempt print, broadcast and digital news organizations from federal antitrust laws and authorities, such as the Department of Justice, to allow them to compete and negotiate with national tech companies. Further, he said the legislation would allow local broadcast companies to merge without government interference, which would “allow those broadcasters to better compete against these tech giants.”

(Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

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Of course, being introduced so late in the congressional session with no other declared political support, the bill has little chance of becoming law in this session of Congress, notes the Broadcast Law Blog and Broadcasting & Cable. It’s also worth remembering that movement in the legislative branch continues to be stifled due to an ongoing political gridlock as the FCC continues its work with a 2-2 partisan split and the Gigi Sohn nomination remains stalled.

This battle for deregulation, however, is not a new one. Paul’s bill includes a component that is similar to the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) draft — which was passed by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee Sept. 22 — though the latter doesn’t have the sweeping deregulatory scope.

First introduced in 2021, if adopted, JCPA would create a “four-year safe harbor” from antitrust laws for print, broadcast or digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors (e.g., social media companies) regarding the terms on which the news companies’ content may be distributed by online content distributors.

As JCPA is set to advance to the Senate floor, NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt released the following statement: “In today’s media landscape, local news outlets are at the mercy of a handful of Big Tech gatekeepers that dictate the terms by which their content appears online. This legislation would level the playing field by enabling fair negotiations between news publishers and dominant digital platforms for the market value of their local content.”