The FCC announced yesterday, in a filing with the Federal Register, that initial comments on its broadcast ownership rules are due August 2nd and reply comments are due August 30th. The filing comes three months after the United State Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and restored the Commission’s previously adopted media ownership changes.
Prometheus Radio Project, a collection of low-power radio stations was fighting the FCC’s plans to modernize the rules. They’ve been arguing that the FCC’s changes would adversely impact female and minority ownership. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the FCC had no obligation to consider minority and female ownership. “Nothing in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 directs the FCC to consider rates of minority and female ownership.”
The Supreme Court win really had no impact on radio ownership. In 2017 the FCC repealed the ban on owning a television station and newspaper in the same market, and a similar rule for owning TV and radio stations. That’s when the lawsuits started to fly putting a halt to any possible ownership rule changes until the courts gave the FCC direction.
This new window for comments may be an opportunity for radio to push for more consolidation based on the April Supreme Court ruling. Many, not all, in the radio industry believe more consolidation is needed due to the changing media landscape and so they can more fairly compete with big tech companies that are gobbling up local advertising dollars. There is certainly not 100% industry agreement on that reasoning.
Under former Chairman Pai, advocates for more relaxed ownership rules had high hopes. Under President Biden, and with only 4 Commissioners, allowing the few to own more is less likely.
Congress mandates The FCC look at Media Ownership rules every 4 years and make changes, if needed, to determine whether the rules on the books remain “necessary in the public interest as the result of competition. The Third Circuit has for years interfered with the FCC’s ability to complete that task.
File your comments in the issue HERE.