NAB OK with Delaying Media Ownership Vote

Backs MMTC Pitch That FCC Allow it First to Study Potential Impact of Loosening Cross-Ownership
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The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council has asked the FCC for a "brief" delay in a vote on the agency's consideration of media ownership, and the National Association of Broadcasters does not object.

In addition, the FCC has sought comment on a request to loosen foreign ownership restrictions on a case-by-case basis.

The media ownership vote has been delayed for a while already due to concerns about the impact of loosening newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership regs on diverse ownership.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed loosening the ban on newspaper/TV cross-ownership and lifting it on newspaper/radio cross-ownership.

In a letter to the commissioners, MMTC asked for the delay so it could conduct a study on what the impact of cross-ownership would be on minority and women ownership.

The study would be undertaken by BIA/Kelsey and peer reviewed, so that would likely be at least a couple month delay in any vote on the rule change.

"The study's methodology is designed so that the final report should be completed, peer reviewed and submitted to the Commission for its consideration within eight weeks of today," MMTC said.

That might actually speed the process if it satisfied critics of the FCC who had complained the commission was prepared to vote on the change without the separate diversity studies the commission has yet to complete.

Broadcasters have been looking for action on media ownership out of the FCC for years, but broadcasters have lately not been pushing hard for a vote given that they think loosening, rather than lifting, the TV/newspaper cross-ownership ban is barely half a loaf and weren't really pushing on radio/newspaper. In addition, the FCC proposal also includes counting some joint sales agreements toward local ownership caps, something that likely has three votes and that they don't want to see happen.

"The National Association of Broadcasters reviewed MMTC's letter and agrees that there is potential merit in additional data-gathering regarding minority ownership," said Jane Mago, executive VP and general counsel, NAB, in a letter to the FCC on Monday. "Accordingly, NAB does not oppose MMTC's suggestion that the Commission defer action in the above-referenced proceedings pending its review of the results of MMTC's study."

Separately, the FCC issued a public notice seeking comment on a proposal by the Coalition for Broadcast Investment (MMTC is a founding member) that the commission look at proposals to allow more than 25% foreign ownership in a broadcast property on a case-by-case basis rather than the de facto 25% cap.

MMTC has argued that is another way to boost media diversity.

"We are gratified that the Commission is moving forward with our proposal, which could enable broadcasters to access capital on the same terms as their cable, satellite, wireless and online counterparts," said Coalition adviser Mace Rosenstein.

The coalition includes the League of United Latin American Citizens, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce; and broadcasters including Entravision Communications Corporation, Bustos Media Holdings, Hearst Television Inc., CBS, Disney, Univision Communications and Clear Channel.