NAB: Exclusivity Is Lynchpin of Localism

The National Association of Broadcasters says it can't figure out why the FCC is branding the syndicated exclusivity and network non-duplication rules old regs in need of scrapping, but doesn't view other rules whose absence could help broadcasters in the same light.

That came in response to an FCC order circulated Wednesday to get rid of the rules, which prevent pay TV providers from importing duplicative syndicated or network programming into local TV markets. Cable operators have been pushing for the regs' elimination so they could potentially offer alternatives during retrans impasses or blackouts.

"Exclusivity rules are a lynchpin of the local broadcast business model and help sustain viewer access not only to high-quality network entertainment programming," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton, "but also to local news and lifeline information. The order currently circulating at the Commission imposing changes to these rules would threaten the vibrancy of our uniquely free and local broadcast system. NAB strongly opposes this order that would ultimately cause harm to consumers and their reliance on localism."

"It is curious that the FCC keeps relying on the rationale that it is taking such pro pay-TV actions because the rules are decades-old, but refuses to even review or remove broadcast ownership rules that were imposed under market circumstances that clearly no longer exist."

NAB argues that the rules are needed to protect localism and that contractual remedies are not sufficient given the expense of litigation and “conflicting incentives for enforcement.”

“Without rules, larger stations have ability to expand reach to detriment of small-market stations,” NAB told the FCC last month.

With the rules in place, it argued, there is a “counterweight” to the what it calls the “significant compulsory copyright subsidy to cable industry,” a reference to the fact that cable operators pay a single fee for rights to carry TV programming (separate from the signal carriage fee negotiated in retrans).

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.