ACA to FCC: Keep Local Ownership Caps

The American Cable Association has filed an opposition to broadcasters' request that the FCC reconsider its decision in the Quadrennial ownership rule review to retain local ownership limits on broadcast stations, saying broadcasters are rehashing arguments that the agency has already rejected.

The deadline for filing was Jan. 24.

After the FCC, in a politically divided vote, decided to leave most media ownership rules intact, the National Association of Broadcasters, Nexstar and Connoisseur Media petitioned the FCC to reconsider that decision.

The NAB initially challenged the decision in court, but after Donald Trump won the presidency and a Republican FCC was taking over, it decided to shift the challenge to the FCC (it could not simultaneously pursue a court challenge).

The ACA suggested that shift or not, broadcasters don't have a case.

"The Commission’s decision to retain the core components of the Local Television Ownership Rule was premised on its view that the rule continues to serve an essential purpose in protecting competition among broadcast television stations in their designated market areas," the ACA said.

Broadcasters argue that the competitive landscape has changed, while broadcast ownership rules have not, leaving them at a disadvantage to MVPDs and online video providers.

The ACA argues that broadcasters have already made those arguments, and that the commission took those into account before making its ruling.

"To warrant reconsideration, Petitioners cannot 'rely on arguments that have been fully considered and rejected by the Commission within the same proceeding, nor can they rely on arguments that 'fail to identify any material error, omission or reason warranting reconsideration,'" the ACA said. "Because their Petitions suffer from these failings, Petitioners’ requests for reconsideration should be denied or dismissed."

But that was a Democratic-led FCC. Broadcasters are hoping new Republican leadership will reverse that August decision by a divided FCC.

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was no fan of retaining the local limits.

In a 17-page opus dissent, then commissioner Ajit Pai said that while "the video marketplace has transformed dramatically," the FCC has done nothing but rubber stamp the radio and TV ownership rules. "The more the media marketplace changes, the more the FCC’s media regulations stay the same," he said, calling the quadrennial an "ostrich of an order" that was not what Congress intended and is "a thumb in the eye" of the Third Circuit, which demanded the FCC take action on program diversity.

Fellow Republican Michael O'Rielly was on the same page.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.