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Coalition Seeks Relaxation of Foreign Broadcast Ownership Limits

Broadcast investment members say 25% mark too restrictive in modern times

The FCC’s limits on foreign ownership of U.S. broadcast properties harks back to a time when the government worried that other governments could commandeer public opinion through propaganda aired on radio or TV, or disrupt communications during wartime.

Times have changed in a multichannel, multiplatform environment, say a group comprised of broadcast networks, radio and television licensees and community and consumer groups that has asked the commission to relax the 25% restriction on foreign ownership of broadcast properties.

Radio members of the Coalition for Broadcast Investment include CBS, Clear Channel, Disney, Emmis, Entercom and Univision. The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Black Chamber of Commerce and International Black Broadcasters Association belong as well.

They are asking the FCC to clarify that the agency intends to evaluate its foreign investment restriction, saying the reason the limits were put in place no longer hold. Consumers can now access information from the Internet, mobile apps, video and audio streaming services, cable and satellite programming networks and social networking tools. None of these outlets are subject to limitations on foreign investment, notes the coalition.

The coalition wants to promote better access to capital by U.S. broadcasters, specifically women and minorities who want to gain a foothold into station ownership, it tells the FCC. “Absent a clear statement from the commission, the marketplace will continue to assume that proposals for above-benchmark foreign investment in broadcasters will not even be considered regardless of the facts and circumstances presented or the merits of a particular proposal. As a result, transactions that the commission may have found to enhance local broadcast service will continue never to see the light of day ― an outcome that surely would disserve the public interest,” states the group in a letter.

The commission recently liberalized its foreign investment policies for common carriers and has reiterated that it has the discretion to allow foreign investment above the 25% mark “unless it finds such ownership would be inconsistent with the public interest,” notes the group.