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NAB: Ownership Rules Put Broadcasters' Future In Jeopardy

The National Association of Broadcasters told
the FCC Tuesday that not only are duopoly limits and cross-ownership
restrictions unnecessary, they work against the FCC's stated goals of
encouraging "competition, localism and diversity."

comments on the FCC's proposed conclusion of its quadrennial ownership rule
review and its remand from the Third Circuit,
NAB said that the FCC will jeopardize broadcasters'
future if it fails to reform the rules so that broadcasters can adopt
"economically sustainable" ownership structures.

NAB argues that there is "abundant
evidence" that mobile and digital media have produced unprecedented
competition, and that last-century limits on broadcast station ownership in a
market or ownership of other media limit stations' viability, particularly
smaller and mid-sized stations.

rules work against localism, NAB argues, because if
stations were allowed to combine resources in smaller markets, they could take
advantage of economies of scale to devote resources to local services,
including news.

the current broadcast ownership restrictions do not promote any of the FCC's
stated goals, they no longer are necessary in the public interest and must be
repealed or substantially relaxed, said NAB.

FCC last December proposed reimposing the 2007 FCC's loosening of the newspaper-broadcast
cross-ownership ban, which was remanded by the Third Circuit last summer for a
clearer justification, but broadcasters have argued that is too little. The FCC
has also proposed retaining the duopoly rules without changes.

NAB argues in its comments that if those rules do
remain on the books, they ban on duopolies among the top four stations should
be tightened to only the top two.

FCC also asked whether it should start counting joint station agreements toward
ownership limits. Cable operators trying to rein in retrans joint negotiations
said absolutely, but NAB says no way.

record contains no basis for treating sharing arrangements as attributable or
for requiring their increased disclosure," said NAB in its filing.
"The record further shows that sharing arrangements do not impact license
control over operations or programming decisions and that joint negotiation of
retransmission consent agreements do not implicate control over core operating
functions. The Commission should reject efforts by self-interested multichannel
video programming distributors to further constrain broadcasters in their
efforts to compete for audiences and advertising revenues."

commission has teed up the new ownership rule changes, but may not vote on them
until after the Supreme Court signals whether or not it will hear broadcaster
appeals of the old rules.