Indies Ask For Dual Ownership

Independent TV stations are urging Congress to craft legislation allowing broadcasters to own two TV stations in a single market, so long as one of the stations operates on the UHF band.

FCC rules generally prohibit broadcasters from owning more than one TV station in a market. But the Assn. of Independent Television Stations said that the rule needs to be eased in order to allow local broadcasters to “harness economic efficiences” needed for indies to compete against cable, DBS and telephone companies in video delivery.

INTV, the D.C.-based lobbying arm for TV stations not affiliated with the Big Three networks, made its recommendation in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee. That panel is in the process of drawing up an information highway bill that’s expected to include broad deregulation of broadcasting.

INTV asked lawmakers to preserve FCC rules barring common ownership of cable systems and TV stations in the same market.

The trade organization also asked for retention of the rule preventing network TV/cable system combinations in a market.

On the deregulation front, INTV asked Congress to order changes in FCC rules that bar broadcasters from owning more than 12 stations nationally, or from reaching more than 25% of U.S. homes with owned-and-operated stations.

Under INTV’s plan, group broadcasters could own an unlimited number of TV stations, so long as the national audience reach is capped at 35%.

INTV’s proposal calls for Congress to authorize future FCC increases of the 35% national audience cap.

INTV asked Congress to instruct the FCC to ax the rule barring common ownership of broadcast station and newspapers in local markets.

The trade group is also seeking must-carry protection for broadcasters on telephone company video platforms.

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