FCC Opens Proceeding to Examine Local Ownership Rules – Don’t Expect Changes

The FCC is required by the Communications Act to examine its ownership rules once every four years to see if they remain in the public interest. The FCC’s 2018 “Quadrennial Review” was held up in court for years. In fact, it has not yet completed that review. Nonetheless, the statute required that the FCC start a new proceeding.

“As with each new quadrennial review required by Congress, we start this proceeding to examine the media ownership rules in light of the media landscape of 2022 and beyond. Although they remain subject to the ongoing 2018 Quadrennial Review proceeding, the three rules currently in place and subject to this review are the Local Radio Ownership Rule and the Local Television Ownership Rule—which limit ownership by a single entity of broadcast radio or television stations in local markets respectively—and the Dual Network Rule, which effectively prohibits mergers among the Big Four broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC). In the context of these three rules, as with prior reviews, we seek information regarding the media marketplace, including ongoing trends or developments (e.g., consolidation, technological innovation, or the emergence of new video or audio options for consumers), that commenters find relevant to the Commission’s review of its media ownership rules.”    

As noted above, this new review will only focus on three rules 1) Local TV ownership rules, 2) Local radio ownership rules and 2) the Dual Network Rule.

We do not expect there will be significant changes to the FCC rules. At the present time, there are only four FCC commissioners: two democrats and two republicans. The FCC cannot make any changes until a fifth commissioner, who will be a democrat, is appointed and confirmed. Even if a fifth commissioner is appointed, it is unlikely that there will be any changes to relax the local ownership rules.

You can see the FCC’s Public Notice here.