FCC welcomes reply comments on rules

B'casters, cablers split on retaining current limits

WASHINGTON — A flurry of paperwork hit the FCC last Friday, the deadline for filing reply comments about the agency’s review of broadcast ownership and other rules.

Both the National Assn. of Broadcasters and Assn. of Local Television Stations concurred that the FCC should retain the ban on broadcast/cable television cross-ownership, at least until the “must carry” issue for digital television has been decided, with the NAB noting that a repeal “would provide an even greater opportunity for cable operators to abuse their gatekeeper role.”

The National Cable Television Assn., the WB and Time Warner Cable, among others, beg to differ, with the latter firing back that such arguments “must be rejected as the protectionist rumblings of certain elements of an industry attempting to retard the ongoing loss of its audience share and advertising revenues.”

The WB added that if the FCC retains this rule, it should adopt flexible waiver criteria “for which an emerging network such as the WB would qualify.”

NAB and ALTV also support keeping the UHF discount rule. “The UHF discount has fostered diversity and competition,” read the ALTV executive sum-mary. “It has helped create new, UHF-based national broadcast networks including Fox, UPN, WB and Pax TV.”

Both organizations also agreed that newspaper/television cross-ownership rule should be eliminated, with the NAB noting that this could “help create and foster emerging businesses, specifically strong local cable news channels and extremely popular Internet sites, thereby broadening the number of information and entertainment outlets available to the public.”

The print side agreed, with the Newspaper Assn. of America claiming that “daily newspapers — with their extensive reporting resources, journalistic exper-tise, access to capital and community ties — are ideal candidates to join with broadcasters to provide innovative new information services and media outlets.”

NAB also advocated retaining current rules on national television ownership limits and radio ownership, noting in the latter case that radio “is the healthiest and strongest it has been since the creation of television.”

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