Every four years, the FCC is required by Congressional mandate to review its' broadcast ownership rules to determine if they still serve the public interest. It is now almost 2013 and the Commission is still trying to conclude the Quadrennial Review for 2010. The latest proposals include: (1) retaining the local television ownership rule which include prohibition on mergers among the top-4 rated stations in a market; (2) keeping the current local radio ownership rule, including the AM/FM sub caps; (3) relaxing the longstanding newspaper/broadcast ownership rule by permitting such cross ownership in the 20 largest markets in certain circumstances; (4) eliminating the rule which restricts ownership of television and radio stations in the same market; (5) retaining the dual network rule; (6) revisiting attribution of joint sales agreements.
Even though these do not seem to be far-reaching changes, the forces in opposition are already making their views known. And, they are by no means in sync. Broadcasters see no need – in today’s communications marketplace where Internet video and audio services are ubiquitous – for retaining any of the existing rules in their current form. Others, including several minority and public service groups, see any relaxation of ownership restrictions as an obstacle to greater diversification of ownership and, above all, a hindrance to increased ownership by minorities and women. Importantly, these groups have seen increasing support from certain Democratic members of Congress. Where this will all end up is by no means certain. But, the FCC certainly has its hands full in trying to come up with a solution that will satisfy most of the stakeholders. The most important audience, of course, will be the court that hears the appeal.