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NAB to FCC: Time To Wrap Up Ownership Rule Review

Says quadrennial needs to be completed with or without fifth commissioner

This story was originally published by our sister publication Broadcasting+Cable. 

The FCC should conclude its long-overdue, congressionally mandated quadrennial review of whether its media ownership regulations are necessary in the public interest, National Association of Broadcasters CEO Curtis LeGeyt told FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel earlier this month, according to an FCC filing.

A politically tied FCC is unlikely to approve reregulation of broadcasters and so far there has been no movement on a Senate confirmation vote on Gigi Sohn, the Democratic nominee who would break that tie.

In a meeting with Rosenworcel, as well as fellow Democrat Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, LeGeyt and other NAB executives said it was past time to wind up the 2018 review.

They said that some delay was understandable given that the Supreme Court had heard an appeal of the FCC’s broadcast reg rollback, but now that that decision was “far back in the rearview mirror,” the FCC needed to wrap it up.

NAB recognized that could be problematic without a full commission, so said it was urging Rosenworcel to complete the rulemaking ASAP after a full commission is seated, but that if that does not happen “in the near term,” it needs to finish up anyway.

Back in June 2021, the FCC officially restored the deregulatory media ownership order adopted by the Republican majority under former chairman Ajit Pai, a decision reversed by an appeals court before that reversal was reversed by the Supreme Court. But the FCC had also sought comment to “update the public record” on media ownership for the overdue quadrennial review.

That could give a Democratic-controlled FCC the opening to re-regulate broadcasters if the record suggests to them that is necessary.

In November 2017, a politically divided FCC voted to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast and the radio-TV cross-ownership rules; allow dual station ownership in markets with fewer than eight independent voices after the duopoly, creating an opportunity for ownership of two of the top four stations in a market on a case-by-case basis (the FCC did not call it a waiver); eliminate attribution of joint sales agreements as ownership; and create an incubator program.

Those changes had been blocked by the Third Circuit, which remanded the decision back to the FCC for a better justification of the decision. The Supreme Court ultimately reversed that decision, holding that the decision was not arbitrary and capricious and that the FCC’s conclusion that the rules were no longer in the public interest was reasonable.

Of course that would not prevent a Rosenworcel-led FCC from re-regulating broadcast ownership when there is a Democratic majority on the commission.


Lead photo courtesy of Jay Mallin.