NAB Seeks Quadrennial Ownership 'Relief' From FCC

With a new deregulatory Republican majority preparing to take the reins at the FCC under a President Donald Trump, the National Association of Broadcasters has petitioned the FCC to rethink its quadrennial media ownership review, which a divided FCC approved in August.

“After seven years of evaluating the rapidly changing media marketplace, the Federal Communications Commission recently adopted an order that remarkably retained—and in some cases made more stringent—its long-standing broadcast ownership rules,” NAB said in the petition. “Because these rules are divorced from current competitive realities, are based on faulty premises or misunderstandings of the law, lack evidentiary support and prevent local broadcasters from competing and serving their local communities effectively, the National Association of Broadcasters urges the Commission to reconsider major aspects of its Order."

The FCC under chairman Tom Wheeler chose to leave local ownership and cross-ownership rules in place, which did not sit well with NAB and last month took it to court over the quadrennial review. But they have decided to fight it on the FCC front instead. The FCC could likely move faster than the courts in giving broadcasters what they seek.

Since NAB can't challenge the decision both at the FCC and in court at the same time, it withdrew its court challenge Friday.

In the petition for reconsideration filed Dec. 1, NAB wants the FCC to rethink its lack of deregulation and its decision to make most joint sales agreements equivalent to an ownership interest when it comes to local ownership limits—limits NAB would just as soon see go away altogether.

Among other bones to pick with the FCC's deregulatory inaction, NAB says the FCC erred in not expanding its view of the competitive marketplace, in preserving the eight-voices threshold for allowing duopolies in a market, and the restriction on any of the top four stations in a market being co-owned.

It says JSA attribution is arbitrary and capricious.

As to crossownership prohibitions still on the books, NAB says there is no evidence they promote viewpoint diversity and plenty of evidence that they harm localism.

NAB says the FCC has been ignoring the reality of a digital marketplace filled with competition.

NAB also wants the FCC to create an "incubator" program to promote diversity of ownership.

All those sentiments have been echoed by both Republican FCC commissioners, who did not support the quadrennial conclusions. They are also likely to resonate with the new FCC chair pick, particularly if the interim chair is one of those two current FCC Republicans—Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly.

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.