The FCC Will Vote on OTA Ownership Rules in December




For years now there has been a push to remove the rules that limit the number of over-the-air TV stations one owner can have. A single owner currently cannot own more than 39% of OTA stations.

Years ago these rules were overturned in radio allowing radio station owners to own more stations. Now they are looking to do the same thing in TV.

This week it was reported that the FCC will vote on the so-called NPRM rules that limit the number of stations an owner can have. This will lift the 39% cap allowing several mergers to move forward. One of the biggest mergers is the $3.9 billion Sinclair deal to buy Tribune.

The rule goes back to the days when there were only three or four TV stations and a handful of radio stations in each city. The concern was that one company could buy every TV station in a city and have 100% control over the news.

It is being argued that in the day and age of the Internet and streaming services the rule no longer makes sense because news, entertainment, etc. is now more diverse than ever. Others argue that allowing OTA station owners to have more than 39% of TV stations could hurt local news.

Yet recent reports show that local TV news is more profitable than it has been since 1996 with more than 70% of TV stations being profitable. According to recent research, local TV news had its second most profitable year ever in 2016.

The recent boom in local news has seen a flood of profitable local programming from daytime talk shows to expanded morning and evening newscasts. Supporters of the merger point to this trend as a reason to have the rules overturned as dated rules.

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