Lougee: Broadcasters Need Regulatory Unshackling

Dave Lougee, president and CEO of TV station group owner Tegna, says he is hopeful that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will untie broadcasters hands in relation to larger, less regulated competitors, and provide long overdue media regulation reform.

Pai has pledged to use a weed whacker on regulatory underbrush, and Lougee, who spoke after receiving the Media Institute's American Horizons Award in Washington Sept. 27, and Lougee suggested the first thing to cut was broadcasters' ownership limits.

He said archaic rules that needed "moving away from" included ownership restrictions and "anachronistic antitrust market definitions."

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The internet has not historically been considered a competitor to broadcasters in antitrust or public interest reviews of relevant competitive markets.

"Ownership reform is critical to giving broadcasters the financial wherewithal to continue to invest in local reporting. No one else is doing it, so if we don't continue to serve this role, communities across the country will be uninformed and in the dark," he said.

He said broadcasters were subject to artificial restraints "that no other industry has. Cable, wireless, and tech companies have become giants, while even our biggest local broadcast companies are tiny compared to the Charters, AT&T's, Facebooks, Googles, and Microsofts of the world. Those are our competitors, but we have to compete with both arms tied behind our back. Since they don't do local, why are we held back?"

Lougee compared internet news with local broadcast news, and the former, with its issues with fake news, did not fare well in the comparison.

A few years ago, some policymakers envisioned a utopian view where ubiquitous internet access would lead to a more informed," he said. , knowledgeable, and united America…with an internet cavalry coming over the hill to save the day in discerning fact from fiction, and fill the role of local journalism. How’s that working for us?"

He said that in D.C. and Silicon Valley there is an ongoing debate about what moral responsibility "large social media platforms" have "around fact and fiction..."

By contrast, he said, Tegna in particular and broadcasters in general, have no similar identity crisis. "[E]very employee can quote you our stated purpose of 'serving the greater good of our communities,'" he said. "We give a voice to the voiceless, comforting the afflicted, and when necessary, afflicting the comfortable...True localism is a great antidote to the toxins dividing the people of our nation."

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.