Association Pans FCC's Proposal on Market Definition Changes

The Insights Association, which represents research and analytics firms, has told the FCC it was wrong to propose changing how it determines whether a TV station is significantly viewed in a market outside its licensed market.

The FCC approved the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking March 31 and initial comments are due May 14. The FCC is suggesting that actual signal strength of a station may be a better metric than audience/viewership data.

The Insights Association says the FCC proposal would “abandon accurate audience measurement research in favor of engineering exercises in signal strength measurement," adding: "[T]echnical measurement of the strength of a TV station’s signal, whether at the point of broadcast or using some homes’ antennae, cannot begin to compare to scientific audience measurement because it can’t tell the FCC whether anyone actually watched the signal, even if the signal strength theoretically captures where such a signal might be capable of being viewed.”

That "significantly viewed" definition determines whether a cable or satellite operator can import the station into the market in which it is significantly viewed, even if it duplicates in-market syndicated or network programming. That importation is otherwise prohibited by the network nonduplication and syndicated exclusivity rules.

Related: FCC Seeks Comment on Significantly Viewed Regime

In addition to input on whether the current regime is, indeed, "outdated and overly burdensome," the FCC wants comment on "whether there are commercially available sources that are able to provide the over-the-air viewership data needed to demonstrate a station’s significantly viewed status, particularly for communities in smaller markets; what modifications or updates should be made to the current process for establishing whether a station is significantly viewed in a community outside of its local market; and whether to update the definitions of 'network station' and “independent station” used in making significantly viewed determinations."

Specifically, the item seeks comment on, among other things, whether Nielsen markets--as is currently the case--or some other methodology should be employed to determine "significantly viewed" status and whether terminology, like "independent station" or "partial network station" should be updated given changes in the marketplace.

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.