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NAB Unveils Duop Plan

The National Association of Broadcasters last week called for TV duopolies in small and medium-sized markets as a means of keeping "struggling" stations alive and well.

NAB urged the FCC to permit common ownership of two TV stations in any market where one station with a audience share of 10 or more is paired with one generating less than a 10 share. This "10/10" approach would "provide needed financial relief for struggling lower-rated stations, especially those in medium and small markets," NAB said.

Duopolies are currently permitted only in markets big enough to allow eight separately owned stations to remain or when one of the stations is failing.

The proposal was filed as part of a flurry of comments from industry, public advocates and individuals advising the agency on its sweeping review of media ownership rules.

In addition, NAB reiterated its call for elimination of restrictions on local broadcast/newspaper and radio/TV combos. Along with the Network Affiliated Station Alliance, NAB also called on the FCC to retain the 35% cap on one company's TV household reach.

The Big Four networks, on the other hand, called on the FCC to scrap all the current ownership restrictions. Instead, the nets said, ownership limits should be only a technology-neutral "safety net" that measures diversity across all "modern media," including those not currently counted, such as the Internet, weekly newspapers, and regional magazines.

The Minority Media Telecommunications Council called the declining share of minority broadcast owners an "emergency" that should be solved by a six-step "Staged Implementation Plan." The plan would allow ownership deregulation only in markets with a "healthy" level of minority ownership. Ownership by minorities would be promoted by granting preferences and tax incentives to owners that sell properties to minorities.

The United Church of Christ and civil rights groups called on the FCC to tighten the rules by eliminating the "UHF discount," which allows station groups to boost their TV holdings by crediting only half a market's TV households to a UHF. The theory has been that, as a rule, U's attract a much smaller share of viewers than V's. All other ownership restrictions should remain in place, UCC said.