FCC Aims to Crack Down on TV Consolidation

The agency plans to limit coordination and deals between TV stations.

A customer stands in front of a wall of flat panel televisions at a Best Buy store June 19, 2007 in San Francisco, California.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
See more stories about...
Brendan Sasso
March 6, 2014, 9:08 a.m.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion plans to tight­en its reg­u­la­tions that lim­it how many broad­cast TV sta­tions a single com­pany can own in any one mar­ket.

The rules are in­ten­ded to pro­mote com­pet­i­tion and en­sure that view­ers have ac­cess to a di­verse range of views in the me­dia. But Re­pub­lic­ans are ex­pec­ted to op­pose the move, warn­ing it could force some loc­al TV sta­tions out of busi­ness.

FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er an­nounced a pro­pos­al Thursday that would crack down on “joint sales agree­ments,” in which one TV sta­tion sells ads for an­oth­er. TV broad­casters ar­gue the deals al­low strug­gling sta­tions to share costs.

But FCC of­fi­cials con­cluded that the ar­range­ments un­der­mine the agency’s me­dia-own­er­ship rules by al­low­ing one sta­tion to con­trol or in­flu­ence an­oth­er. Un­der Wheel­er’s pro­pos­al, any sta­tion that sells 15 per­cent or more of the ads for an­oth­er sta­tion would count as own­ing that sta­tion for pur­poses of the agency’s me­dia-own­er­ship cap.

FCC rules bar any com­pany from own­ing more than one of the top four sta­tions in a mar­ket.

In a state­ment, Wheel­er said that treat­ing the joint-sales deals as own­er­ship is “simply re­cog­niz­ing real­ity.”  

Wheel­er’s pro­pos­al would also bar TV sta­tions from band­ing to­geth­er as a group when they ne­go­ti­ate with cable pro­viders. Cable com­pan­ies have com­plained about the in­creas­ing fees they have to pay to of­fer broad­cast TV chan­nels. The chair­man’s staff con­cluded that joint ne­go­ti­ations by broad­casters have in­creased costs for cable pro­viders, lead­ing to high­er bills for con­sumers.

The FCC plans to seek in­put on how it should handle deals between TV sta­tions to share re­sources, such as news heli­copters or staff.

The pro­pos­als closely track re­com­mend­a­tions that the Justice De­part­ment made last month. 

“The pro­posed ini­ti­at­ives are not de­signed to stop be­ne­fi­cial ef­fi­cien­cies in the tele­vi­sion busi­ness,” Wheel­er said. “They are de­signed to en­able fact-based de­term­in­a­tions to en­sure com­pet­i­tion, di­versity, and loc­al­ism at this very im­port­ant junc­ture in the me­dia mar­ket­place.”

The FCC plans to vote on the rules at its meet­ing on March 31. But Ajit Pai and Mi­chael O’Ri­elly, the two Re­pub­lic­ans on the five-mem­ber com­mis­sion, are ex­pec­ted to vote against the changes. 

In a state­ment Thursday, a spokes­man for Pai said the chair­man’s pro­posed lim­it­a­tion on joint-sales deals is “a dag­ger aimed at the heart of small-town broad­casters.”

“It’s a job-killer that would res­ult in less news pro­gram­ming, less di­versity, and more sta­tions go­ing dark,” the spokes­man said.

What We're Following See More »
FRENCH IS A LAWYER, VETERAN
Kristol Recruiting National Review’s David French for Third-Party Run
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children."

Source:
CALIFORNIA VOTES IN A WEEK
Jerry Brown Backs Clinton
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Hillary Clinton today, calling her "the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump." While praising Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, Brown said "Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee. ... This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun."

Source:
GLASS CEILING STILL HARD TO CRACK
Clinton Says Voters Still Hung Up on Gender
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a New York Magazine profile, Hillary Clinton said she still encounters misogyny at her own events: “‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”

Source:
CHANGE WE CAN’T BELIEVE IN
Trump Vows Not to Change
11 hours ago
THE LATEST
Source:
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

×