The National Association of Broadcasters has decided to abandon federal
legislation intended to rescind favorable deregulation won by the four major
networks last month at the Federal Communications Commission.
The NAB once supported House and Senate legislation that would have restored
the national audience-reach cap to 35% after the FCC raised it to 45% --
effectively allowing ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox to own more local stations -- over
the strong objections of the networks' independent affiliates.
"We have looked at the political tea leaves and we believe that it's not in
the cards to get a clean 35% bill out of this process," NAB president Edward
Fritts told reporters Thursday.
The day before, Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.)
criticized the NAB for dropping support of their 35% legislation, leaving the
impression that the trade group had flip-flopped on the issue.
But Fritts pointed out that the NAB dropped its support for the Hollings bill
last month after the Senate Commerce Committee approved it, but only after
adding amendments that called for repealing FCC deregulatory moves that the
trade group supported, such as repeal of the common ownership of a TV station
and a newspaper in the same market.
"We saw what happened in the Senate Commerce Committee, and I think that,
quite frankly, was a harbinger in our minds of things to come -- and they were
not good things," Fritts added.
Next Wednesday, the House Appropriations Commission is scheduled to vote on
the FCC's budget. Some lawmakers are planning to use the spending bill as the
vehicle for overturning the FCC's new broadcast-ownership rules, an NAB source