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Broadcasters Storm FCC Over Exclusivity Proposal

Broadcasters have been putting on a full court press at the FCC to try to dissuade the commissioners from following FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's lead by eliminating broadcast exclusivity rules.

That is according to the National Association of Broadcasters and FCC documents.

Over the past week-plus since the FCC circulated the order eliminating the syndicated exclusivity and network nonduplication rules for a vote, NAB says more than 60 broadcasters from 22 states have met more than a dozen times with commissioner, advisors, and Media Bureau staffers to argue against elimination.

For example, 17 broadcast execs from stations and associations around the country met with FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly and his chief of staff to make their case for retaining the rules, calling them "a clean, efficient and nearly costless mechanism for helping local TV stations preserve their bargained-for exclusivity within their local market."

The rules backstop contractual exclusivity by prohibiting MVPDs to import syndicated or network programing identical to that on a local market station.

NAB, which organized the fly-ins, said three key takeaways from the meetings were: "an emphasis on the importance of these rules to localism; concern from small market broadcasters that exclusivity rules are critical to their survival; the difficulty of handling exclusivity through contract and litigation if the FCC were to eliminate the rules because of 'privity of contract' issues (meaning the local station would have a tough time suing the right party to stop importation of duplicative programming)."

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.