FCC to Kick Off Quadrennial Broadcast Reg Review Next Month

Latest in congressionally mandated review
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As expected the FCC on Dec. 12 will officially launch its latest congressionally mandated "Quadrennial" review of broadcast ownership rules.

FCC Seal

FCC chair Ajit Pai did the unveiling Tuesday (Nov. 20) in his monthly blog post on the items the FCC plans to vote on at its next public meeting, which he does when the tentative agenda is released 21 days before the meeting.

"On the media front, we’ll be kicking off a review of our media ownership rules — a review we’re required by statute to conduct every four years," he said. "The 2018 Quadrennial Review, as it’s called, will begin with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which seeks public input on the relevant rules, such as the Local Radio Ownership Rule, as well as several diversity-related proposals."

He did not say whether the FCC's UHF discount or cap on TV station group's national ownership reach is also teed up in the item, though ostensibly stakeholders are free to weigh in on that, too, if the FCC does not deal with it in a separate item.

The chairman had signaled to Congress that the quadrennial review was coming by year's end, so it was no surprise that it was teed up for the meeting. The FCC has let the quadrennial deadline for concluding the review slip in the past for a variety of reasons--including having to repeatedly respond to court decisions on rule challenges--only wrapping up a combined 2010 and 2014 review in November of last year.

So the chairman is getting what could arguably be called an early start even though the lookback will clearly be primarily a 2019 review. A senior official said they did not want this review to drag on for years, but would not put a deadline on it.

Also at the meeting, the FCC will vote on a declaratory ruling that wireless text messages are information services, not telecom services, so that service providers can continue to protect their customers from span and scam robocalls, said senior FCC officials.

That ruling would deny petitions to declare text messages a telecom service. Texts had not previously been classified and the petitions gave the FCC a chance to weigh in.

The FCC says a text messaging service provides for storing and retrieving information, so it is like email. It also finds that text messaging, like wireless broadband service, is a commercial mobile service, not a private service, because it is not connected to the public-switched service.