NAB to ask for looser regs within markets

WASHINGTON — A divided National Assn. of Broadcasters board voted 13-9 Tuesday to urge the FCC to allow a broadcaster to own more than one TV station in a market.

The close vote reflects a deep division in an industry that is undergoing dramatic consolidation. Although the vote allows NAB staffers to lobby the FCC for more liberal ownership rules, its impact will be diluted by the close margin. The vote was held at the NAB board’s annual meeting.

“This kind of vote does not allow you to go out wholeheartedly,” said NAB board chairman Phil Jones, Meredith Corp. broadcasting division president. Jones opposes more ownership deregulation, but was not allowed to vote on the issue because he is the board chairman.

Just one year ago, the NAB voted to remain neutral on the issue. Small- and medium-sized broadcast groups were concerned about their ability to compete against large broadcast groups and networks that would enjoy the economies of scale brought about by owning more than one station in a market.

But during the past year, several groups formerly opposed to relaxation of the duopoly rules have entered local marketing agreements which allows one station to program another in the same market, and have changed their position about ownership deregulation. Among those companies are Hearst and Cox, both of which have NAB board seats.

The resolution adopted by the NAB calls on the Federal Communications Commission to “permit common owner-ship of two UHF stations or one UHF station and one VHF station in the marketplace.” The board also urged the FCC to “permit existing local marketing agreements to continue in effect or permit them to be converted to full ownership.”

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