FCC Begins 2018 Quadrennial Review of Media Ownership Rules


The FCC has adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking beginning the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the Commission's media ownership rules. The agency is required to review certain broadcast ownership rules every four years to determine whether they "are necessary in the public interest as the result of competition" and to "repeal or modify any regulation [the Commission] determines to be no longer in the public interest."

The rules subject to the quadrennial review are the Local Radio Ownership Rule, the Local Television Ownership Rule and the Dual Network Rule. The Local Radio and Local Television Ownership Rules limit the total number of broadcast radio and television stations, respectively, that may be commonly owned in a media market. The Dual Network Rule prohibits a merger between or among the Big Four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC).

In the NRPM, the Commission is seeking comment on whether these three rules continue to serve the public interest or whether they should be modified or eliminated in light of changes to the media marketplace. In addition, the notice seeks comment on three proposals relevant to promoting diversity in the broadcast industry. The statute specifically excludes the national television ownership cap from the quadrennial review.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, "Our endpoints may be unclear right now, but the end goal is not: Our rules must keep pace with the modern media marketplace. The reforms that this Commission adopted last year to do just that are already having a positive impact. For example, in 2017, we eliminated the outdated newspaper-radio cross-ownership rule. Thanks to that reform, the owner of Colorado's Grand Junction Daily Sentinel was recently able to purchase a radio station group in Grand Junction."

He continued, "Given that this Notice doesn't include any tentative conclusions, I'm disappointed that we were unable to secure a unanimous vote for it. But unfortunately, our dissenting colleague requested edits that did not comply with the law. Specifically, we were urged to delete any discussion of the Dual Network Rule from the Notice. But the Dual Network Rule is one of our media ownership rules that we are required by statute to review every four years."

NAB Executive VP/Communications Dennis Wharton said, "NAB looks forward to participating in the FCC's congressionally-mandated quadrennial review of broadcast media ownership rules. We are not seeking wholesale elimination of these regulations, but rather a modernization that reflects today's fiercely competitive marketplace. We trust the Commission will update these rules with an understanding that free and local broadcasting now competes head-to-head with powerful Internet, pay TV and audio companies that didn't exist when many broadcast ownership rules were first written."

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