More FCC Deregulation

FCCThe FCC will vote next month to eliminate a decades-old rule designed to preserve media diversity in local markets, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said yesterday.

As the Washington Post reports, “The move is aimed at supporting economically struggling media outlets in an age of digital consumption. But critics say it will lead to greater media consolidation and the loss of independent voices. The regulations, passed in 1975, prevent any single company from owning both a full-power TV station in a given market and a daily newspaper at the same time.”

“The marketplace is nothing like it was in 1975,” Pai told House lawmakers on Wednesday, arguing that the restriction on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership was outdated. “The FCC’s rules still presume the market is defined by pulp and rabbit ears.”

The vote, which is expected on Nov. 16, could also eliminate a rule that prevents TV stations in the same market from merging if the outcome leads to fewer than eight independent stations operating in that market. That rule, known as the “eight voices test,” was also aimed at ensuring a variety of perspectives on the air. Pai said he is also proposing to eliminate FCC rules regarding the simultaneous ownership of radio and TV stations; regulations he said are unnecessary and duplicative.

Pai’s critics were quick to cite the dangers of eliminating these rules, warning that it will lead to large media companies stifling the views of individual communities. Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said, “The already consolidated broadcast media market will become even more so, offering little to no discernible benefits to consumers.”
• In response to Chairman Pai’s proposal to modernize broadcast media ownership rules, the following supportive and nurturing statement was issued by Dennis Wharton, NAB EVP of Communications, who said, “NAB strongly supports Chairman Pai’s plan for modernizing broadcast media ownership rules. For 40 years, policymakers and the courts have blessed countless mega-mergers among national Telco, cable and satellite program giants, while at the same time blocking broadcast/newspaper or radio/TV combinations in single markets.”

Wharton continued, “This nonsensical regulatory approach has harmed the economic underpinning of newspapers, reduced local journalism jobs, and punished free and local broadcasters at the expense of our pay TV and radio competitors. We look forward to rational media ownership rules that foster a bright future for broadcasters and our tens of millions of listeners and viewers.”

More FCC deregulation in the Trump era means the rich get richer and the opportunities for diverse participation gets more difficult. Sometimes less is less.

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