WGAE: Don't Deregulate Broadcasting to Match Over the Top

As the FCC ponders what, if any, changes to make in its media ownership rules, The Writers Guild of America, East says that broadcast networks have already reoriented themselves to compete in an online, on-demand marketplace.

WGAE was weighing in on the FCC's launch last fall of its congressionally mandate quadrennial regulatory review of media ownership rules. 

That network reorientation toward the edge includes CBS offering scripted programming on CBS All Access, Disney and Fox plans to create a stand-alone subscription VOD service over the top and Comcast's investment in Vox.

The Republican FCC has contemplated loosening broadcast local ownership rules given the growth of online competition, but WGAE says that would simply be an opportunity for Big Media to nationalize local news at the expense of "serious journalistic engagement."

WGAE suggests the FCC should have stepped in to regulate the edge, but failing that, it should not deregulate broadcasters to match. 

“It would be bitterly ironic if, because the Commission has abnegated any authority to require digital media entities to honor the principles of independence, localism, and diversity, then broadcast entities must now be relieved of the responsibility of honoring those principles, as well," said WGAE.

The FCC did not draw any tentative conclusions in its launch of the quadrennial--Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel didn't quite see it that way. But while the endpoint is unclear, the goal is not, which FCC chair Ajit Pai has said is to have the rules match the current media marketplace. He has pointed, as an example to the decision to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership ban.

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.