FCC Takes First Step Towards Eliminating TV Station Ownership Cap, An Action That Republican Commissioner O’Rielly Claims Only Congress Can Take
Washington, DC – It’s been like Christmas all year long for Sinclair as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken vote after vote to pave the way for the company’s proposed merger with Tribune Media. Today, the FCC gave the right-wing media giant one final gift for the year with their vote to review the national TV ownership cap – perhaps the biggest obstacle in the way of closing the merger that would give Sinclair access into 72 percent of U.S. households. From Variety:
The FCC gave the go-ahead on Thursday to review a rule that limits the number of TV stations that a single entity can own, a proceeding that could ultimately allow media companies to own many more outlets.
The FCC’s 3-2 party line vote launches a period to collect public comment on what to do about the national ownership cap, which is now set at 39% of U.S. TV households. The changes could include raising the cap or eliminating it altogether.
The vote passed despite the fact that Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has said the FCC lacks the authority to change the national ownership cap. In an official filing, O’Rielly argued that the FCC lacks the “authority to modify the National Television Ownership Rule in any way, including eliminating the UHF discount.” O’Rielly stated that because “the national ownership cap is set by statute,” it can be modified only by Congress.
“It’s clear that Chairman Pai and the Republicans controlling the FCC have no limits to how far they are willing to go to pave the way for this merger – even when it goes against their well-documented past comments and beliefs,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
“But Sinclair isn’t the only one getting gifts, the Trump administration is getting nationwide coverage so glowing, many have called it ‘propaganda.’ Now thanks to Trump’s FCC, Sinclair could soon be broadcasting that ‘propaganda’ to nearly three out of four U.S. households,” he continued.
Other actions the FCC has taken to benefit Sinclair include reinstating the UHF discount, eliminating the main studio rule, loosening rules on owning multiple TV and radio stations in one market and even opening the doors for Next Gen TV, a new Sinclair-backed technology.