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FCC withdraws media ownership proposal, for now

FCC LogoIt appears that the Federal Communications Commission has tabled proposed rules changes that would make it easier for companies to own more media in big market areas. The nixed-for-now measures flow from the FCC’s December 2011 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which would have allowed some acquisition of additional television or AM/FM radio outlets, especially by newspapers. “We continue to believe that the nation’s largest markets can accommodate some crossownership without unduly harming viewpoint diversity,” the NPRM concluded. But Reuters reports that FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has withdrawn the controversial alterations for the moment.

When last we visited this matter, the FCC was considering a deregulatory proposal that would make it easier for newspapers and TV networks to merge in major markets. The agency also decided that its radio/television station cross ownership rule could be eliminated. The justification was that the FCC planned to hold onto its local radio ownership rule (hated by Clear Channel), which permits an entity to own no more than eight radio stations in any big market.

“Therefore, in the largest markets, absent the current radio/television cross-ownership rule, an entity approaching the limits of the existing cap could acquire only one additional radio station and remain in compliance with the local radio rule,” wrote the Commission. Of course that “only one additional radio station” could be your or my favorite, suddenly gobbled up by your not-so-friendly and not-so-local mega-entity, then turned upside down. But whatever, apparently.

In any event, the newspaper/TV station merger proposal caused quite an uproar, and former Commission Chair Julius Genachowski never quite got to the finish line on the matter. His proposals were part of the 2010 review of the agency’s media ownership rules. Since the FCC is supposed to review them every four years, it makes sense that the Wheeler administration will come up with its own as 2014 approaches.

We called the Commission for some details on this situation, but received no reply.

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