NAB will fight FCC

Org to file lawsuit in D.C. federal appeals court

WASHINGTON–The National Assn. of Broadcasters is back in the game.

The trade org will fight the Federal Communication Commission’s new limits on TV duopolies and radio ownership in court, the group’s board decided Monday.

In yet another head-spinning change of course, the NAB’s board also reaffirmed its support for legislation limiting the number of TV stations one company can own.

On June 2, the FCC raised a cap on the national audience one company could reach to 45% from its previous 35%. For months, the NAB fought hard to keep the 35% cap and any congressional action that would restore it.

But two and a half weeks ago, NAB prexy Eddie Fritts told reporters those bets were off — that the Senate effort to return that limit had spun out of control, attracting far too many extraneous provisions that would hurt many of its members.

The current political tea leaves are more promising from the NAB perspective. The org’s lobbyists believe Congress is now more likely to approve clean legislation to restore the 35% cap.

The House last week defied the White House, GOP leaders’ and the major networks’ wishes and passed a bill to reinstate the 35% limit.

Even many who would like to gut every piece of the FCC’s new rules argued that it would be overreaching and would ultimately fail to win enough support to pass. They fought off several attempts to attach additional rollback language.

Although the board reversed Fritts’ decision, they unanimously handed him a vote of confidence Monday, according to NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.

The NAB plans to file its lawsuit in a D.C. federal appeals court in a few weeks, Wharton added.

The group aims to expand the FCC regs barring one company from owning multiple TV stations in the same market. The FCC relaxed the rules, but not enough when it comes to small markets, the trade group argues.

The NAB also will try to convince the court to throw out a new yardstick that effectively limits the number of stations one company can own in small markets.

The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance is not content to wait around for Congress to roll back the TV ownership cap to 35%. They also plan to join the legal action and fight the FCC’s looser limit in court.

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