The coming year for broadcasting - Media ownership
Media ownership. The FCC has signaled its intent to eliminate the limitation on common ownership of same-market television and radio stations and to revisit rules regulating common ownership of same-market broadcast and newspaper properties. But the question remains whether regulatory changes will lead to marketplace changes.
Under existing regulations, the TV, radio and newspaper industries have become increasingly distinct, making the FCC's proposal far less deregulatory in practice than it may appear in print. But while the FCC's possible relaxation of its cross-ownership rules garnered the initial headlines, a more far-reaching change for broadcast television may lie in a seemingly subtle inquiry by the FCC.
The commission has raised the question whether it should regulate the ability of stations to change network affiliations. Currently, the FCC touches this issue solely when stations change hands. The potential for the FCC to further regulate who can become an affiliate of a top-rated network would interpose the FCC in what has been historically a free-standing commercial and content-based decision between networks and station operators.
Watch for networks and station operators to find common ground on this issue, as both have intersecting interests in preserving contractual and programming autonomy.