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FCC Eases Rule on Foreign Ownership of TV and Radio Stations

The FCC voted to allow foreign entities to invest more than 25% in broadcast stations, although the agency will still determine whether such investments can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Commissioners on Thursday described the 25% cap as outdated, especially as foreign ownership above that threshold has been allowed for telecommunications.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, presiding over his first open commission meeting, said that the change should help free up capital for broadcasters, helping improve local broadcasting, minority media ownership and a more efficient use of spectrum. He noted that the agency was still free to review national security and other concerns in making a decision on whether to grant an ownership stake. “This will be a case-by-case detailed review of whatever information is presented,” he said.

All five commissioners voted for the change. The proposal had been advanced by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn when she served as acting chairwoman as Wheeler’s nomination was considered by the Senate. Commissioner Ajit Pai called the change a “much needed step toward leveling the regulatory playing field.” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted that the reasons for the cap date to concerns that a foreign entity may disrupt ship-to-shore communications.

Michael O’Rielly, also at his first open meeting since his Senate confirmation, expressed some concern that the FCC didn’t go far enough in removing the regulatory barrier, noting the need for “certainty” for companies as they invest in the marketplace. Making his first extended public comments, he also ended his remarks with a signature sign off: “Remember, stay strong for freedom.”

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