After Reviewing Documents Requested Under FOIA, NAB Rips FCC's Ownership Rules Review Process
August 25, 2016 at 10:41 AM (PT)
The NAB has followed up its Freedom of Information Act request for the materials behind the FCC's decision not to make substantive changes in its ownership rules, and an ex parte letter by EVP/General Counsel RICK KAPLAN filed with the Commission TODAY (8/25) ripped the FOIA document haul of thirteen documents as "to put it mildly, underwhelming. A hollow foundation for research or analysis, the records prove what broadcasters have long suspected -- the FCC has taken a purposeful 'head in the sand' approach to its required quadrennial examination of the media marketplace."
The documents provided to the NAB, which it derided as "odds and ends" mostly already publicly available, were without six SNL KAGAN reports and two staff analyses of NIELSEN surveys, all for licensing reasons, but regardless, the NAB wrote that the documents demonstrate "that the Commission’s decision to maintain and even tighten broadcast ownership restrictions has been driven by reasons that have nothing to do with a serious examination of data. Indeed, with the exception of the Knight Foundation study on increasing consumption of news on mobile phones – which actually supports broadcasters’ arguments that they are no longer gatekeepers to information – the records are devoid of useful data." Missing from the documents, the NAB noted, are any consideration of the newspaper industry's decline, the Internet's effect on information flow, and "nothing else that suggests the Commission performed the kind of rigorous inquiry that Congress mandated."
The NAB letter charged that "these records expose a particularly lackluster and ultimately arbitrary and capricious effort by the FCC to seek out and consider other information that would show unequivocally how marketplace changes have nullified the need for the rules, at least in their current form. Looking through the attached record, it is impossible to conclude that Commission staff made any serious attempt to examine the issues presented from a fresh perspective ... (and) provide further evidence that the Commission’s decision to maintain the existing broadcast ownership restrictions, including the wildly outdated printed newspaper cross- ownership ban, is arbitrary and capricious, and continues to be contrary to law."