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Local News and Broadcast Media Preservation Act would repeal FCC’s limits on a single company…

GovTrack Insider – Medium
GovTrack.us
2022-09-20
https://govtrackinsider.com/local-news-and-broadcast-media-preservation-act-would-repeal-fccs-limits-on-a-single-company-6c976dc85ebc

Local News and Broadcast Media Preservation Act would repeal FCC’s limits on a single company owning multiple radio or television stations in one market

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

This is the most hard-hitting response to the FCC since Family Guy’s “The FCC Song.”

Context

In order to promote a competitive media landscape, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) maintains rules which set caps on the number of television or radio stations that a single entity can own, whether a corporation or an individual person.

  • An entity can only own a maximum of two television stations in a single market area, no matter the market’s size or number of stations.
  • An entity also can only own a certain maximum number of radio stations in a single market, which does vary depending on that market’s size and number of stations.
  • FCC rules also bar a merger between any of the biggest four broadcast television stations: ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. That’s why they’re owned by four different owners: The Walt Disney Company, Comcast, Paramount Global, and Fox Corporation, respectively.

In 2017, the FCC voted 3–2 along party lines to eliminate a longstanding rule which had previously banned any entity from owning both a newspaper and a television station in the same market. In the 2021 decision FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the FCC’s ruling.

What the bill does

The Local News and Broadcast Media Preservation Act would repeal the FCC’s limits on an entity’s maximum radio or television station ownership in a single market. It would also exempt news organizations — not just television and radio, but also print and digital — from federal antitrust laws.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on September 7 as S. 4796, by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that cataclysmic 21st century disruptions to the traditional media landscape prove the bureaucratic and slow-to-respond federal government is no longer able to competently set the rules governing this area.

“With the rise of social media and an ever-changing media landscape, it is imperative that our local newspapers and broadcasters are given the freedom to adapt,” Sen. Paul said in a press release. “[The bill] gets government out of the way and frees broadcast media from the restrictions currently hindering their ability to better serve their customers.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that the massively-changing media landscape is exactly why the existing rules should be kept in place.

“We are not going to remedy what ails our media today with this rush of new consolidation,” the FCC’s then-Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in a dissent to the commission’s aforementioned 2017 Republican-led decision allowing greater media consolidation. “We are not going to fix our ability to ferret fact from fiction by doubling down on just a handful of companies controlling our public airwaves.”

“Media ownership matters because what we see on our screens says so much about who we are as individuals, as communities, and as a nation,” Rosenworcel continued. “Study a bit of history and you can only come to one conclusion: consolidation will make our stations look less and less like the communities they serve.”

(In 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Rosenworcel to be promoted to FCC Chair. The Senate confirmed her for that position in December by 68–31, with Democrats unanimously supporting and Republicans mostly opposed 19–31.)

Odds of passage

Introduced in the prior Congress, Sen. Paul’s 2020 version did not attract any cosponsors and never received a committee vote.

Somewhat unusually, he introduced it in the second half of December, with less than two weeks remaining in the entire congressional session and mere days before the Christmas and holiday recess — essentially guaranteeing it wouldn’t receive a hearing nor a vote.

The current version has similarly not yet attracted any cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

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This article was written by GovTrack Insider staff writer Jesse Rifkin.

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