The Federal Communications Commission is required by law to review its media ownership rules every four years to determine whether they remain “necessary in the public interest.” If they do not, the FCC is to “repeal or modify” the regulations. Contrary to the apparent belief of the FCC, the Quadrennial Review is not simply about eliminating or relaxing rules. Rather, the purpose of the review is to serve the public interest. Therefore, when the FCC decides whether to keep, repeal, or modify current rules, some rules may need to be enhanced.
It’s the holiday season, and the Federal Communications Commission has been in a giving mood for the largest media companies. Over the past few months, the FCC has adopted a number of items that have relaxed or eliminated rules around media ownership. On their own, these actions allow for the largest media companies to further consolidate, drowning out diverse, independent, and local voices in the marketplace. However, the FCC’s actions have also particularly benefited one broadcast company -- Sinclair -- and its effort to merge with Tribune.
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.
Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve an Order on Reconsideration and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on media consolidation. This order eliminated rules that limit any one entity from owning too many newspaper, radio, and television entities within a local market. These rules were essential in helping to protect viewpoint diversity, locally created content, and competition.
Imagine living in a town where the only local daily newspaper, two of the top four television broadcasters, and some local radio stations are all owned by the same entity. An owner might promote one political ideology or favor particular beliefs, leaving different viewpoints simply unheard. This poses many dangers, and runs contrary to the principles of a country that prides itself on the First Amendment and the benefits of robust public dialogue. This Twilight Zone-esque hypothetical may now become reality when the Federal Communications Commission moves to scrap central portions of its historic media ownership rules at the Open Meeting on Thursday. The current media ownership rules limit any one entity from owning too many of the newspaper, radio, and/or television entities within a local market, in order to ensure viewpoint diversity. These rules are under attack.