Broadcasters Prepare to Lobby Incoming Trump Administration

by Paige Albiniak  |  11.29.2016

As President-Elect Donald Trump prepares to take office this January, local television broadcasters are preparing their lobbying strategies with the expectation that the new administration will be inclined to revise regulations that the industry sees as outdated. 

The industry’s lobbying association, the National Association of Broadcasters,  “is cautiously optimistic a Trump FCC will take a fresh look at reforming outdated local broadcast ownership rules,” Dennis Wharton, NAB’s executive vice president of media relations, told USA Today. “These are ‘I Love Lucy’ era rules in a ‘Modern Family’ world.”

One of the main rules local broadcasters would like to see disappear is one that bans media companies from owning newspapers and TV stations in the same market — a rule that broadcasters argue makes little sense in today’s media environment in which neither local broadcasters nor local newspapers wield the power they once did. They’d also like to overturn a rule that forbids any one company from owning more than one top-four TV station in any one market.

Earlier this month, broadcasters filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year that elected to leave the rules in place.

In that filing, NAB wrote that “despite the obvious transformative changes in the media landscape in the decade since the commission’s last completed quadrennial review, the commission failed to take a fresh look at the broadcast ownership rules and to repeal or modify them in light of those changes. Instead, it relied largely on its conclusions in past reviews that the rules should be retained and then reaffirmed each one — with only minor modifications.

“It also readopted the restriction on joint sales agreements, which effectively tightened the commission’s local television rule, and imposed new reporting requirements for all television shared service agreements.”

The newspaper industry shares local broadcasters’ sentiments, and also is lobbying to rid itself of the rule. 

“This rule prevents our industry from achieving the necessary scale to compete in media marketplace, while investment will continue to flow to Internet distribution platforms that compete with news publishers for advertising revenue,” said David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance, according to USA Today. “The result will be fewer resources for local news and investigative reporting.”

In general, the Obama administration’s FCC, led by chairman Tom Wheeler, has been seen by the broadcast industry to be over-regulatory.

Looking ahead, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai is likely to be named interim FCC chairman with a shot at the permanent position.


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