Public Knowledge Responds to FCC Vote to Lift Media Ownership Cap

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Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modify or eliminate the 39 percent national audience reach cap that prevents broadcast stations from owning too much of the market. The NPRM will also seek comment on the UHF discount used by broadcast television station groups to calculate compliance with the audience reach cap.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“In 2004, in response to massive public outcry, Congress set the national ownership limit at its current level. The legislation expressly exempted the national ownership cap from the quadrennial ownership review, and included the notation that the FCC should consider the national ownership cap as ‘permanent.’

“Now, incredibly, Chairman Pai has begun the process to eliminate a media ownership rule he has no legal authority to adjust. And, as with every previous deregulation of media ownership limits, the primary beneficiary appears to be Sinclair and its effort to buy Tribune. Even after reopening the ‘UHF discount rule’ loophole in the ownership limits and eliminating virtually any limits on local cross-ownership, the Sinclair-Tribune combination would still violate the last vestige of our mass media ownership limits.

“Once again, Chairman Pai steps in to change the rules to give Sinclair the regulatory favors it needs to close a deal that will cover more than 70 percent of American television viewers. It is a fine story of crony capitalism -- if we are fortunate enough to still have an independent press willing to cover it.

“We will work with the broad community of groups who support diverse media ownership to challenge this illegal action.”

You may view our statement, “FCC Eliminates Media Consolidation Rules, Harming Competition and Viewpoint Diversity,” for more information on FCC Chairman Pai’s support of media consolidation.

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