The FCC's media ownership rules are supposed to foster competition, localism, and diversity, but do none of those things according to Gerry Waldron, counsel to the National Association of Broadcasters.
That is according to Waldron's testimony for a Sept. 25 House Communications Subcommittee hearing on broadcast media ownership rules. He says not only do the rules not help, but in many cases hurt those public interest goals.
On the issue of competition, Waldron plans to tell the legislators that the rules stifle broadcasters' ability to be equal players in a very competitive video marketplace, and so do not serve the public interest, which the FCC is sworn to defend and promote.
As for localism, he says, the rules have had the opposite effect by "by limiting investment and synergies that could otherwise fuel locally-focused programming."
Waldron says NAB supports diversity, and recognizes that the industry has a "great deal of room for improvement." But he says the current ownership rules only "suffocate" smaller broadcasters and limit new entrants.
Broadcasters have argued that the FCC's moves to limit joint sales agreements in concert with its continued prohibition on co-ownership of stations in smaller markets has worked against diversity, not for it.
"The current FCC rules distort broadcast competition in this new media landscape. They limit broadcasters’ ability to respond to market forces, while cable, satellite and Internet-based media outlets without comparable restrictions proliferate and take away both audience share and advertising revenues from traditional broadcasters. The reality is that today, broadcasters’ main competition for advertising dollars comes from the cable industry, and increasingly from the Internet, yet the broadcast ownership rules have not adapted to account for this progressively more competitive playing field."
The FCC is supposed to complete its 2014 quadrennial review in 2016, and Waldron wants it to take that opportunity to "critically evaluate and update its broadcast ownership rules."
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.
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