Commlaw - Mass Media

Following the Broadcasting Industry

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Finally! The FCC Releases Ownership Further Notice

After the elapse of more time than expected since the June 21, 2006 meeting in which the item was adopted, the FCC has released the text of its ownership Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking itself is self-explanatory and nothing will be gained by repeating aspects of it in this blog.

The most interesting reading is obtained by a review of the individual statements of each of the Commissioners appearing at the end of the document. For now, it appears that the vote is 3-2 in favor of allowing for additional media consolidation.

The interesting aspect for radio is the Commission's determination to sever MB Docket No. 03-130 which is the part of the proceeding to try to determine how to set ownership limits in non-Arbitron rated markets. This puts off for another day, and perhaps another decade, a determination of a method different than modified contour overlap to count stations for ownership purposes in unrated markets.

Because the Commission slammed the contour overlap method in its 2003 ownership order, and because that finding was upheld by the Court of Appeals, sooner or later the Commission will either have to come up with a different method of calculating the number of stations in unrated markets, or come up with the reason why contour overlap as stated by the Commission "is flawed as a means to protect competition" in Arbitron rated markets, but makes perfect sense for unrated markets.

Radio can expect a cat fight as to whether local radio ownership limits, presumably for Arbitron as well as non-Arbitron rated markets, should be upped, diminished or left the same, and whether there should be separate limits for AM and FM stations. Also, the Commission hints that it might go back to considering market share when setting ownership limits, deja vu 1992 to 1996!

Much of the outcome of this proceeding will depend upon the 2008 presidential election. Even though the issues of media consolidation cross party lines, it is safe to say that a Democratic administration will be much less likely to proceed with the loosening of media ownership restrictions.

Comments may be filed through the Commission's ECFS system. The deadline date is September 22, 2006 for the filng of comments, and November 21, 2006 for the filing of reply comments. If the past is any indication, there is a significant chance these deadline dates may be extended.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

AM Re-Broadcasting on FM Translators

The NAB has filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC advocating a change in the FM translator rules to allow FM translators to re-broadcast AM stations.

Specifically, the NAB requests that AM stations be permitted to license and/or
use FM translators to retransmit their AM service as a fill-in service, so long as no portion of the 60 dBu contour of the FM translator exceeds the lesser of either the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station or a circle with its center at the AM transmitter site and a radius of 25 miles.

This petition for rulemaking represents a reversal in the NAB's position on FM translators as it was the NAB for many years that steadfastly sought to limit FM translators to only re-broadcasting full service FM stations, and then only within an FM station's service area contour if there was any connection between the FM translator licensee and the FM station licensee.

By Public Notice released July 25, 2006, the Petition for Rulemaking was assigned RM No. 11338 in the FCC's ECFS, and a time period of 30 days was given for supporting or opposing statements to be filed.