The Federal Communications Commission has 90 days to finish its review of the rules governing how many broadcast stations a company can own, a federal court said in a ruling on Friday.
The agency is required to review the laws every four years to see if they continue to serve the public interest. It kicked off the review in 2019, but a series of legal entanglements delayed the actual start of the process. After further stalling this year, the National Association of Broadcasters filed a petition with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in April to get the process moving.
“NAB applauds the Court for recognizing the vital importance of the FCC completing its long overdue 2018 quadrennial review,” NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt said in a statement. “Today, broadcasters’ service to communities across the country is imperiled by the Commission’s failure to modernize its decades-old media ownership rules.”
An FCC spokesman told Cord Cutters News that, “We’re reviewing the court’s guidance and considering next steps.”
The review takes special relevance with speculation swirling around Disney’s openness to look at potential deals for its affiliate stations. Allen Media Group already put in a $10 billion bid for the stations plus the ABC network, FX and National Geographic, while Nexstar, one of the largest owners of local broadcasters, expressed interest in a deal.
LeGeyt spoke before Congress earlier this month pressing for the need to change the rules, which prevent companies from owning too many local stations. He argued that local broadcasters are struggling to compete for ad dollars against big tech companies like Google and Meta, which boast a national and global presence.
At the same hearing, LeGeyt threw his support behind a push to place the same kind of cable regulations on streaming services like YouTube TV, Fubo, and others. As a result, streaming services like Netflix, Paramount, Comcast and Disney banded together to create the Streaming Innovation Alliance to lobby against the move.
The quadrennial review was slowed by an earlier appeals court striking down elements of the 2014 quadrennial, including regulations around newspaper-broadcast cross ownership and radio-broadcast ownership. The legal battle went all the way to the Supreme Court.