FCC Updates Multiple Ownership Rules and Requests Additional Comments in Pending Quadrennial Review

As we reported previously, in April, the Supreme Court in FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project reversed the Third Circuit’s decision vacating the FCC’s 2017 elimination and modification of certain multiple ownership rules. As a result, the FCC has released an Order reinstating the 2017 rule changes: elimination of the Newspaper/Broadcast and Radio/Television Cross-Ownership rules, and elimination of the rule which had required that Joint Sales Agreements for television stations be attributable to the station providing sales for another station in a market. The Order also reinstates the changes to the local television ownership rule which permit one entity to own two television stations in any market, as long as both stations are not ranked among the top-four stations in a DMA, and permitting case-by-case waivers of the top-four restriction. The Order also reinstates the FCC’s incubator program which was adopted in 2016.

Because of the rule changes implemented as a result of the Court’s Prometheus decision, the Media Bureau has released a Public Notice asking parties to update the record in the currently pending 2018 Quadrennial Review proceeding. Specifically, the FCC requests that parties update comments with respect to the following multiple ownership rules:

  • The Local Radio Ownership Rule, which limits the number of AM and FM broadcast stations an entity may have a cognizable interest in, depending on the size of the market;
  • The Local Television Ownership Rule, which, as explained above, permits an entity to have an attributable interest in two television stations in a DMA as long as they are not both ranked among the top-four stations; and
  • The Dual Network Rule, which allows a television station to affiliate with an entity that maintains two or more networks of television broadcast stations, unless it involves the merger of the “big four” networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC).

The Bureau asks commenters to review and respond to any studies or other materials that have been submitted during the past two years since the prior comment period ended, and to submit any relevant new information regarding the media marketplace. Specifically, commenters are asked to submit analyses, empirical evidence, or specific proposals related to these rules and to the FCC’s interest in ensuring that the rules continue to promote the goals of competition, localism, and diversity. The Public Notice specifically identifies the growth of online audio and video sources, the continued strength and importance of broadcast radio and television stations within their local communities, and the importance of the internet as a means to access audio and video content, as relevant media trends that may be addressed. In addition, the Bureau seeks comment on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the market and proposed changes to the rules.

Comments will be due 30 days after the Public Notice is published in the Federal Register, and reply comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. We will advise when Federal Register publication occurs.

If you have questions about this proceeding, or you are interested in submitting comments, please contact any attorney in our office.

Categories: Media