FCC votes to allow some broadcasters to buy more TV stations
Apr 21 2017 by Johnny Bowman
Due to revisions to the FCC's broadcast ownership reporting forms, the commission recently began requiring NCE stations to make "reasonable and good faith efforts" to use unique registration numbers for their officers and board members on subsequent ownership reports, similar to the reporting requirements for owners of commercial stations.
By reinstating the so-called UHF discount, the country's largest media companies will be able to lower how the FCC determines whether their holdings comply with a federally mandated cap that limits the total reach of their TV stations to 39% of USA households.
As expected, the FCC has declared the broadband business data services market generally competitive and is deregulating the rates incumbent providers (former Bell operating companies) like AT&T and CenturyLink can charge for services like wireless backhaul, credit card readers, ATMs and institutional hookups to schools and libraries. Clyburn called the FCC's move on Thursday a "huge gift for large broadcasters with ambitious dreams of more consolidation".
BDS generated a number of back-and-forth debates during Tom Wheeler's tenure as FCC chairman. "This represents a rational first step in media ownership reform policy allowing free and local broadcasters to remain competitive with multinational pay TV giants and broadband providers", said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in a statement.
The vote was 2 to 1, with commissioner Mignon Clyburn offering a scathing review of the policy.
The decision could lead to a possible acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc of Tribune Media Co, some Democrats in Congress said.
The FCC today officially voted to reinstate the UHF discount for TV broadcasters that was eliminated a year ago.
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Pai said the BDS proceeding "was launched way back in 2005", and that "a dozen years of deliberation is enough".
Pai and the FCC's other Republican, Michael O'Rielly, opposed the 2016 change, arguing it was unlawful to alter the way the cap limits were calculated. Frank Pallone wrote to Pai Wednesday.
Reinstatement allows ownership of more TV stations under the 39 percent national audience cap, which current Chairman Ajit Pai said is on the table after a litany of pop-culture references to that which is "inextricably linked" such as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
FCC officials said the new business data services rules are aimed at allowing competition rather than regulation to determine pricing. The EU encouraged the FCC to rethink this proposal to consider how it might affect European companies.
The FCC's vote takes away price caps in a county when a competing BDS provider has a network within a half mile of 50 percent of the buildings served by existing providers, even if the building is now served by just one provider.
Thursday's vote scrapped most regulatory requirements in the business data services market, although some price caps in areas with little competition will be retained.
"The European Union is concerned that this sudden change of course, followed by the rapid action that is foreseen ... may be harmful for consumers and competition, and that it will further aggravate the imbalance in BDS regulatory practice that already exists between the United States and the EU and other nations", David O'Sullivan, the ambassador of the E.U.to the USA, wrote in the letter to the FCC. "Price regulation.is seductive, but in reality, price regulation threatens competition and investment".