NAB Rips FCC Ownership Rules Again In Latest Petition For Reconsideration
December 2, 2016 at 12:52 PM (PT)
The NAB is going in with another challenge to the FCC's broadcast ownership rules, filing a Petition for Reconsideration asserting that the FCC's retention of the newspaper-broadcast and radio-television cross-ownership rules ignores changes in the marketplace, are backed by no evidence showing that the rules promote viewpoint diversity, and harm localism.
The filing also challenges the eight-voices test and top-four-networks restriction on television station ownership and the tightening of joint services agreement attribution rules, and proposes an incubator program to encourage diversity.
In order to file the petition, the NAB had to drop its pending court case challenging the rules, since a party cannot both prosecute a challenge to FCC rules in court and in a petition to the Commission; the organization filed a motion TODAY with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals withdrawing its petition appealing the rules as arbitrary and capricious, and is also moving with the court to be added to the case filed by PROMETHEUS RADIO PROJECT as a "party in interest."
The filing says that the FCC's rules "are divorced from current competitive realities, are based on faulty premises or misunderstandings of the law, lack evidentiary support and prevent local broadcasters from competing and serving their local communities effectively." On failing to consider the competitive effects of digital media, the NAB says, the Commission "had to ignore extensive empirical evidence that NAB submitted about broadcasters specifically and the marketplace generally. Instead, the Order improperly relies on woefully outdated data (some of which goes all the way back to the 2002 biennial review); makes numerous conclusions without citing any 'evidence' other than its own unsupported assertions, including frequently repeating the same unsupported assertions from earlier ownership reviews; and even cites evidence that does not actually support the FCC’s position. Notably, neither the FCC nor any interested third parties offered any studies, serious research or new arguments explaining why the decades-old broadcast-only ownership rules should remain in place, let alone unchanged."
On newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, the NAB says that while "viewpoint diversity is the FCC’s only justification for retaining the cross-ownership rules," the Order does not provide a "reasonable basis for concluding that these rules are necessary" to promote that goal and, absent evidence that there is a connection between the rules and diversity of viewpoints, is arbitrary and capricious. The NAB also points to a PEW RESEARCH CENTER study that demonstrates that digital news sources are "closing the gap with local television and have surpassed radio and newspapers." "On reconsideration," the NAB requests, "the FCC should acknowledge (that) the internet’s transformative effects do not disappear in the context of broadcast ownership rules."
And on the reversal of the Commission's position about radio-television cross-ownership, the NAB states, "The Order’s sudden determination that radio now plays a meaningful role in providing viewpoint diversity in local markets directly contradicts past FCC decisions, evidence in the record and the Order’s analysis of the viewpoint diversity provided by the internet and other non-broadcast sources." Interestingly, the NAB's argument is that radio, with declining use for news and less local news but more syndicated and network programming, is not a driver of viewpoint diversity, and that the Commission's reliance on radio as an opportunity for audience engagement -- call-in talk shows, for example -- is blunted by the Commission's discounting of the internet, which the NAB calls "the greatest platform in history for engagement between individuals and groups with each other and with community organizations, political candidates, government officials and myriad others "