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NAB to FCC: Don’t Restrict Broadcast with Obsolete Rules

Comments filed as part of the 2018 Quadrennial Review record

The National Association of Broadcasters has a clear vision when it comes to regulatory parity for the broadcast industry: don’t constrain us with outdated rules.

In early March, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith and NAB General Counsel Rick Kaplan met with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks and his staff to discuss a number of policy issues affecting radio and television broadcasters.

While Smith complimented the commission on its repack efforts following the TV incentive auction, he emphasized that there is more to be done when it comes to the intense competition that broadcasters face. “Notably, a great deal of the competition broadcasters currently face did not even exist when many of the rules regulating broadcasters were written,” the NAB said in its comment filing. As a result, broadcasters must compete against “behemoths” like Google, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon while constrained by rules in a way that these media companies are not.

“If the commission retains antiquated rules that unfairly constrain broadcasters … it will be difficult, if not impossible, for broadcasters to continue providing the same level of local and national public service they do today,” the NAB said in its comment filing.

To provide regulatory parity for the radio industry, Smith and Kaplan pressed the FCC to adopt NAB’s proposal for reforming the local radio ownership rules, which recognizes that local radio stations, especially those in small and medium markets and AM stations in all markets, need relief from the commission’s ownership rules.

The NAB pointed to an earlier FCC decision that moved to keep the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule in place; this contributed to the decline of American newspapers, the NAB said. “It is imperative that the commission does not continue to let politics get in the way of smart policy, and instead it should modernize the radio and television ownership rules to not only allow broadcasters to survive, but also thrive,” the NAB said in its filing.

Of key importance to NAB: protection of C-band spectrum. While the NAB has noted that it does not stand in the way of some reallocation of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the commission should not do anything to harm the important service satellite carriers provide to broadcasters through this spectrum.

“It is critical that the commission does not become overzealous in pursuit of a slogan-heavy goal,” the NAB said in its filing. Instead, the commission should proceed thoughtfully, recognizing the value of the C-band to current users and consumers.

“Specifically, broadcasters must not be harmed in any reallocation, and must have recourse at the commission should any piece of a future transition go awry,” the NAB said.

The FCC is currently requesting comments on modifying specific rules as part of the 2018 Quadrennial Review. Those comments are being accepted through the ECFS database using Docket Number 18-349 until April 29.