The FCC’s Broadcast Media Ownership Rules Page: 2 of 26
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The FCC's Broadcast Media Ownership Rules
The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC or Commission) broadcast
media ownership rules are intended to foster the three long-standing goals of U.S.
media policy - competition, localism, and diversity of voices. The FCC has the
statutory obligation to review these rules every four years to determine if they
continue to serve the public interest or should be modified or eliminated. In
December 2007, the FCC adopted an order that modified only one of its broadcast
media ownership rules - the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule - and left
the other rules intact.
Under the new rule, it would be presumptively "not inconsistent with" the
public interest, in the 20 largest local markets, for an entity to own both a major daily
newspaper and a single television or radio station, so long as the television station is
not among the four highest-rated stations in the market and after the transaction there
are at least eight independently owned and operating major media voices. Otherwise,
in most situations newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership in a local market would be
presumptively inconsistent with the public interest. Each proposed combination,
however, would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and proposed combinations in
smaller markets could be approved. Fifteen parties have appealed the new rule; the
challenges will be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
A joint resolution of disapproval to revoke the new rule has been introduced in both
the Senate (S.J.Res. 28) and the House (H.J.Res. 79). In addition, S. 2332 and H.R.
4835 would negate the rule because they would require the FCC, before adopting any
new broadcast ownership rule after October 1, 2007, to give 90 days' notice for
public comment, which was not done prior to adoption of the rule. In contrast, H.R.
4167 would eliminate the newspaper-radio (but not newspaper-television) cross-
ownership prohibition in its entirety.
In its previous quadrennial review, in June 2003, the FCC modified five of its
broadcast media ownership rules, easing restrictions on the ownership of multiple
television stations (nationally and in local markets) and on local media cross-
ownership, and tightening restrictions on the ownership of multiple radio stations in
local markets. Those rules have never gone into effect. Sec. 629 of the FY2004
Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-199) instructed the FCC to modify its
new National Television Ownership rule to allow a broadcast network to own and
operate local broadcast stations that reach, in total, at most 39% of U.S. television
households. In June 2004, the United States Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit,
in Prometheus Radio Project vs. Federal Communications Commission, found that
the FCC did not provide reasoned analysis to support its specific local ownership
limits, and also that the FCC failed to address the impact of it new rules on minority
ownership of broadcast stations, and therefore remanded portions of the new local
ownership rules back to the FCC and extended its stay of those rules. This report
will be updated as warranted. For a detailed discussion of the historical development
of the FCC's broadcast media ownership rules, and especially of FCC actions during
the 2003-2007 period, see CRS Report RL31925, FCC Media Ownership Rules:
Current Status and Issues for Congress, by Charles B. Goldfarb.
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The FCC’s Broadcast Media Ownership Rules, report, March 17, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc810974/m1/2/: accessed February 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.