While Fox will challenge the FCC’s ownership cap in court, NBC said Wednesday it may forgo the legal route and instead lobby the org to throw out the rule’s definition.
Issuing its biennial review of broadcast ownership rules, the FCC announced Tuesday it would keep the limit despite pleas from the broadcast networks.
Currently, the FCC bars station groups from reaching more than 35% of the country. The rule refers to the number of eyeballs that broadcasters might potentially reach. NBC would like the FCC to amend the rule to look at how many viewers that station groups actually reach.
“What has skewed the analysis is the focus on potential viewing,” said Rick Cotton, NBC exec VP and general counsel. “It’s a ridiculous yardstick and bears no relationship to today’s competitive marketplace. Our focus is a very tight attack on that standard.”
Cotton, who notes that NBC’s owned-and-operated stations attract a viewership base well under 10% of viewers nationwide, said station groups would wind up with the ability to significantly expand if the FCC altered its focus to actual delivery.
“The current cap operates in an extremely destructive manner in terms of broadcasters being able to compete vigorously against media organizations with large holdings,” Cotton said.
Proponents of the rule worry that the balance of power would dramatically shift toward the networks if the cap were repealed.
That includes a number of station groups that are simultaneously lobbying the FCC to relax the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership regs.
Cotton asks why those groups feel the marketplace has changed enough to justify cross-ownership with a newspaper, but not enough to abolish the ownership cap.
“They’re totally conflicted, speaking out of both sides of their mouth,” Cotton said.
NBC execs say they are still deciding whether to file a lawsuit over the FCC’s decision to maintain a station ownership cap.