The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is said to be poised to release new regulations that would change the way that broadcasters owning multiple media properties in a locality sell and manage their advertisement. The Wall Street Journal reports that sources close to the matter say that the plans for proposed changes have been in the works for a long time, and expect an announcement from FCC Chairman Tony Wheeler shortly, with a vote to enact the rules coming about a month thereafter.
Currently, FCC regulations prohibit broadcasters from owning two large stations in one area. However, deep-pocketed broadcasting companies have gotten around these rules by striking deals with local stations to gain access to their ad space. Proposed regulation would prevent this by treating a broadcaster as an “owner” of any property when they were responsible for 15 percent or more of the advertisement sales.
If a vote on enacting the rules passes, broadcasting companies would potentially need to dissolve their deals with local stations or face stiff FCC penalties.
While FCC chairman Julius Genachowski had previously proposed action that would soften restrictions owning more than one local station, that proposal was throw out this past December in favor of stricter regulations. Similar rules have historically prevented companies from owning any combination of media outlets in a single area, i.e. a radio station and a newspaper.
The laws in question are designed to eliminate the influence that any one entity can have in market, encouraging healthy competition and giving citizens multiple sources for information.
The FCC’s attempts to give consumers access to information in an equitable way has also manifested in its fight with internet service providers (ISPs) relating to net neutrality. While a recent D.C. district court ruled that ISPs should have the ability to control what bandwidth the data on their infrastructure receive, advocates for an open Internet have raised concerns that this control could eventually result in more expensive Internet services and potential censorship. The FCC has vowed to propose new rules that would preserve an open Internet.