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Media Ownership Looking Like a November Meeting No-Show

It is looking like the FCC's media ownership vote will not
make it onto the FCC's November agenda after all. While multiple commission
sources had said the signal out of the chairman's office was that it would be
circulated for a vote Nov. 30, according to those same multiple sources, it was
looking less likely at presstime, though there is still an outside shot.

Hurricane Sandy may have blown that timetable off course a
bit, but it may also be that the chairman is still figuring out where all the
other officers are on the item.

The chairman is still expected to circulate the media
ownership order, but not until sometime next week at the earliest, too late to
make the agenda for the Nov. 30 meeting, which is being circulated Friday. That
means it could either be voted by the commissioners before the December
meeting, or be added to that meeting. The chairman has said he wanted to vote
the item by the end of the year.  

The commission has been reviewing its rules in response to a
quadrennial congressional obligation to do so, and a court order from the Third
Circuit. According to sources, broadcasters have been beating a path to
commission staffers' doors lately to talk about media ownership issues, including
broadcasters hoping the FCC would go all in on cross-ownership and lift, rather
than loosen, the TV/newspaper ban.

If the order follows the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
(NPRM) the commissioners approved last December, it will scrap the radio/TV
cross-ownership rules, essentially preserve the FCC's attempted loosening of
the newspaper/TV cross-ownership rules, which the FCC tried to do under
Republican chairman Kevin Martin, but leave in place the radio and TV local
market ownership caps.

The Media Bureau is said to be essentially finished with its
biennial 323 form report based on information filed by broadcasters on their
attributable ownership interests in radio and TV stations. According to
sources, the chairman has also circulated tweaks to the form for the next

One FCC source said they were surprised the 323 report had
not already been released.

If the commission does vote the item, it will have done so
without completing diversity studies in response to the Third Circuit's issues
with how it justified diversity initiatives undertaken by the commission under
Kevin Martin. But sources point out the 323 report that informs the quadrennial
review includes diversity info as well, and that the order will separate the
quadrennial review issues from the Third Circuit diversity issues that still
need to be addressed. "They are related but they don't have to be tied
together," said one commission staffer, "and the chairman's office
will try to address diversity to a limited degree in the quadrennial."

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.