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NAB Calls for ‘Modest’ Ownership Reform

Supports continued relaxation of local radio ownership limits

The National Association of Broadcasters supports what it calls “modest” reform of media ownership rules, including elimination of cross-ownership rules, continued relaxation of local radio ownership limits and reform of the television duopoly rule.

Broadcasters “must have the flexibility to form competitively viable ownership structures,” the trade group wrote in comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission Monday.

“Ownership rules that limit the ways broadcasters can compete in a digital, multichannel environment adversely affect stations’ abilities to serve their diverse audiences and local communities.”

Specifically, NAB urged the commission to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast and radio-television cross-ownership rules.

The association also called for “substantial reform” of the television duopoly rule, urging the commission to allow combinations in markets of all sizes. “Same-market combinations improve programming generally and promote the provision of news programming specifically,” NAB said.

NAB also expressed its support for the continuing relaxation of local radio restrictions “in light of the increasingly fragmented audio marketplace and the financial challenges facing local stations.”

The current local radio limits were established nearly 15 years ago in a less competitive marketplace, before the emergence of satellite radio, online streaming, iPods and MP3 players, said NAB, which added that according to numerous studies, common ownership of radio stations has produced greater programming diversity and has not significantly affected advertising prices.

In general, NAB noted that local broadcasters’ more prominent competitors “enjoy dual revenue streams of both subscriber fees and advertising revenues” and are not subject to local or national ownership restrictions. “Existing ownership restrictions are not needed to ensure programming, viewpoint, source or outlet diversity in the 21st century media marketplace,” the groups said in the filing.

NAB said in the filing it is “untenable” to maintain broadcast-only restrictions on the assumption that common ownership of stations can somehow reduce the ability of consumers to access diverse information or harm competition in the information marketplace.