The January 16, 2007, deadline for filing reply comments marked the conclusion of the formal comment period in the latest phase of the FCC's ongoing media ownership proceeding. In July 2006, the FCC initiated a comprehensive quadrennial review of the media ownership rules, releasing a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sought comment on the local television ownership and local radio ownership rules, the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban, the radio/television cross-ownership rule, the dual network rule, minority ownership and the UHF discount. The reply comments and opening comments, the latter of which were due October 23, 2006, included filings from a diverse array of broadcasters, trade associations, public interest groups, academia and others.
This chapter in the media ownership saga began with the FCC's third biennial review, wherein the agency decided to significantly liberalize ownership limits. Under statutory mandate, the commission conducted a review of its broadcast ownership rules, resulting in the agency's adoption of the 2002 Biennial Review Order in June 2003. (In 2004, Congress changed the frequency of periodic ownership reviews to once every four years.) Several parties sought judicial review. In June 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued Prometheus v. FCC, which stayed and remanded to the commission for further consideration several ownership rules adopted in the 2002 Biennial Review Order. After the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2005 declined to review Prometheus v. FCC, the commission commenced the current rule making proceeding to respond to the Third Circuit's concerns.
Although the formal comment cycle in the media ownership remand proceeding has reached its end, the FCC will continue to accept informal input and to amass information for the record through public hearings held at various locations across the country. To date, the FCC has held official public hearings on media ownership in Los Angeles and El Segundo, California (on October 3, 2006), and Nashville, Tennessee (on December 11, 2006), with four more hearings planned but not yet scheduled. The commission also has announced that it will undertake 10 research studies on media ownership. Brief descriptions of these studies, which eventually will be released for public review and comment, are available at www.fcc.gov/ownership/studies.html.