FCC Officially Raises Station Ownership Cap to 39%

The FCC  Thursday officially rewrote its rules to raise the cap on a TV group owner's household reach to 39%. That's the total percentage of U.S. households a single TV station group owner is allowed to reach, although only half of a UHF stations audience counts toward that cap.

That move comes a little over three years after President George W. Bush signed the bill into law that changed the cap to 39%. The FCC had wanted to raise it from 35% to 45%, but Congress stepped in to split the difference.

What is essentially a housekeeping move by the FCC comes in advance of its oversight hearing before House Democrats on March 14.

The FCC hasn't had an opportunity to impose the cap anyway, since no station sale has come before it that would have pushed any of the networks above that limit. In fact, networks seem to be moving in the other direction, selling stations rather than buying them.

The FCC said it was making the change "without providing prior public notice and an opportunity for comment,"--including why it took so long--"because the rule modifications are mandated by the applicable provisions of the Appropriations Act and Telecommunications Act."

Actually, the order was adopted on Aug. 10, though not released until March 1.

The deal still isn't closed. The new rules won't take effect until 30 days after being published in the federal register.

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.