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FCC OKs Estrella Broadcasting Foreign Ownership

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC has allowed Estrella Broadcasting, which owns and operates 21 full-power TV and radio stations, to exceed the 25% foreign ownership benchmark for those stations, up to a 100% voting and equity interest, as Estrella had sought.

The FCC was essentially making permanent a structure it allowed when Estrella proposed it as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.

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The 25% figure is only a trigger for an FCC review of an ownership interest proposal, rather than a cap that needs a waiver. 

No Executive Branch agency, which vet foreign media ownership proposals for potential national security issues, had any issues with the Estrella restructuring.

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The decision on Estrella came in a declaratory ruling issued this week by the Media Bureau. The FCC allows up to 100% foreign ownership on a case-by-case basis and this case warranted it, the FCC concluded: "[W]e find that the public interest would not be served by prohibiting the foreign ownership that would be held in Estrella," the bureau said.

Estrella had gotten a temporary waiver back in October for its bankruptcy restructuring, then applied for a declaratory ruling.

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Estrella had argued that allowing the foreign ownership would 1) "enhance its abilities to compete and innovate in the media distribution marketplace"; 2) "serve the Commission’s interest in encouraging foreign investment in broadcasting"; and 3) "further U.S. trade policy without raising any national security, law enforcement, or other risks." 

The petition was unopposed, though one commenter did express reservations, which the bureau did not share because it said they were unsupported and unrelated to the petition.

At issue were the transfer of: Estrella Radio License of California, LLC; Estrella Television License of Houston, LLC; Estrella Television License of Dallas, LLC; Estrella Radio License of Houston, LLC; Estrella Television License, LLC; and Estrella Radio License of Dallas, LLC.

In 2013, the FCC lifted its ban on foreign ownership above 25%. Such ownership can now be as much as 100%, so long as it is found, as reviewed on a case-by-case basis, to be in the public interest.