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NABOB Changes Stand on Radio/Newspaper Cross-Ownership

Also urges commission to explore a minority incubator program

An organization that seeks to give voice to the interests of U.S. black-owned broadcasters has changed its position on an FCC rule that forbids common ownership of a daily newspaper and a full-power radio station in a market.

The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters writes to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that “a reevaluation of its position in this proceeding is appropriate.” NABOB says it now supports a request by the National Association of Broadcasters that the FCC eliminate the newspaper-radio cross-ownership rule.

The organization noted that it historically has opposed any relaxation of ownership rules in an environment of declining minority ownership of TV and radio stations; it has argued in the past that a “serious decline in African American ownership since 1996” is evidence that further relaxation can only hurt minority ownership.

But NABOB now cites Pai’s own recent public comments that the FCC has approved several huge media mergers and acquisitions including Comcast/NBC, AT&T/DirecTV and Charter/Time Warner Cable/Bright House. “NABOB’s members, like NAB’s members, must now compete for audience and advertising revenues against these new behemoths of the television industry,” the organization wrote in its letter to the chairman, which was signed by President James L. Winston. “Similarly, NABOB’s members, like NAB’s members, must compete against the new internet giants, such as Google and Facebook.”

Given this competitive landscape, NABOB said, it must acknowledge that consolidation within the TV and radio industry “is not our only competitive threat.” Further, it said, if the broadcast industry is too tightly constrained in its ability to compete against new players, the industry as a whole, both large and small broadcasters, may suffer.

So NABOB now supports elimination of the rule. But the group also pushed for action to promote ownership of broadcast properties by minorities. It specifically asked the FCC to consider launching an incubator program to promote minority ownership. It cautioned that any such program should not be based on joint sales agreements of a type in which a minority licensee relies almost completely upon a group station owner for financing, programming, advertising and operations, an owner who then has an option to buy out the minority participant. This, NABOB said, is not an incubator program.

The group also still supports a restoration of the tax certificate program, but it believes that is a job for Congress, not the FCC.