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Foreign Media Ownership Gets Attention

FCC invites comments on Coalition for Broadcast Investment request for clarification of agency’s intentions

The concept of loosening the FCC’s restrictions on foreign investment in U.S. media holdings and vice versa has taken another step.

The Coalition for Broadcast Investment previously asked the commission to clarify its policies that restrict foreign ownership and voting interests in entities that hold commission licenses to no more than 25% in the parent company of a broadcast licensee.

The coalition is made up of broadcast networks, radio and television licensees, as well as community and consumer groups. Emmis, Entravision, Clear Channel, Disney/ABC and Hearst are the members with radio holdings.

The coalition says Congress intended the 25% to be a flexible benchmark, not a cap, and in this age when consumers can get their media from a plethora of sources, the restriction is too severe.

The restriction from 80 years ago dates to a time when the U.S. believed allowing too much foreign control over a U.S. broadcaster posed a national security risk. The coalition members point out that U.S. telecom companies have benefitted from “significant foreign investment.”

Members would like the FCC to clarify that the agency intends to review several proposals to modify the 25%; without “a clear statement from the commission,” the coalition says, the marketplace will continue to assume that proposals that exceed the 25% benchmark won’t be considered.

“Taking this modest” step would send a message that broadcasting “continues to be a valued and vital part of the 21st century media and telecommunications ecosystem,” and would help incent new sources of capital into broadcasting, such as helping minorities and women enter the broadcast business, according to the group.

The FCC is taking public comments on the letter from the coalition to MB Docket 13-50. Comments are due April 15 and replies by April 30.

Federal Register publication triggered the comment dates.

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