May 02, 2003

At a special May 27 meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters Television Board of Directors, the group strongly endorsed a two-part proposal calling for reform of TV ownership rules that recognize competitive challenges facing free, local, over-the-air TV stations.

Under the plan, no single company:

* would be permitted to acquire stations that, taken with the viewing of any cable channels attributable to the same owner, have a total viewing share of greater than 30 percent in a TV market;

* would be permitted to own more that two of the top-four rated local stations, and under no circumstance more than three stations in a single market.

The reform proposal was endorsed by representatives from the following broadcast companies: Albritton Communications, Banks Broadcasting, Barrington Broadcasting, Belo, Citadel Communications, Cox Television, Dispatch Broadcast Group, the Walt Disney Company, Emmis Communications, Fisher Broadcasting, Hearst-Argyle Television, Liberty Corporation, Media General, Paxson Communications, Post-Newsweek Stations, Raycom, Scripps Broadcasting, Tribune Company and Young Broadcasting.

NAB President Edward O. Fritts told the FCC in a letter that relief for local television broadcasters from onerous regulation is justified in light of increasing competition from cable and satellite. "Stations in markets from large to small face increased competition - often from MSOs that operate all the cable systems in a television market, the capital and operating costs of the digital transition, and a steep decline in network compensation," wrote Fritts.

Relief for local stations is particularly justified in light of reports that the FCC on June 2 will allow the major broadcast networks to own more TV stations, and permit newspapers to acquire TV stations, Fritts said.

"The record of duopolies where they have been permitted shows the benefits that flow to the public from revised ownership rules," wrote Fritts, who cited duopoly combinations in markets that have resulted in more local news programs and additional outlets for emerging networks.

Fritts said the NAB TV Board proposal "will strengthen competition and public service in local markets."

The National Association of Broadcasters is a full-service trade association that promotes and protects free, over-the-air local radio and television stations' interests in Washington and around the world. NAB is the broadcaster's voice before Congress, federal agencies and the courts. NAB also serves a growing number of associate and international broadcaster members. Information about NAB can be found at www.nab.org.

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