In a split vote of 3-2 the FCC voted Thursday to open a review into Commission’s national broadcast audience reach cap.
Current rules prevent a single TV broadcaster from owning stations that reach more than 39 percent of households nationwide.
The FCC is considering whether the cap, which was set by Congress, should be modified, kept in place, or eliminated altogether.
The notice of proposed rulemaking also asks whether the UHF discount, which lets stations count fewer households toward their ownership limits and was reinstated by the Commission earlier this year, should be eliminated.
“We need to take a holistic look at the national cap rule, including the UHF discount. The marketplace has changed considerably due to the explosion of video programming options and various technological advances that have occurred since the cap was last considered in 2004. So we need to examine whether our rules should change accordingly,” Chairman Ajit Pai said.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel cast a dissenting vote, as did Mignon Clyburn, who raised concerns in part about competition.
“Localism, diversity and competition are bedrock principles of our national media policy, and indeed our democracy,” Clyburn said in her dissent. “Giving a single broadcaster the means to buy up enough local stations to exceed the 39 percent cap is inconsistent with the statute and must be rejected.”
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr voted to approve the notice of proposed rulemaking, though O’Rielly took issue with whether the FCC has authority to take action on the cap put in place by Congress.
The item made no tentative conclusions and no date was set for any action to be taken.
A rule change to the cap could be key to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed buyout of Tribune Media, as the combined company would own 233 stations and reach 72 percent of the country.
Filed Under: Industry regulations