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DOJ to Examine How Online Advertising Affects Local TV

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division will hold a two-day workshop to look at how online advertising affects the competitive landscape for local TV stations.

That is potentially significant for broadcasters, who argue that the competition from tech giants should be weighed as regulators and government attorneys assess whether to approve pending mergers. Makan Delrahim, the chief of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, revealed plans for the workshop in a Q&A this week at the State of the Net Conference in Washington.

The Antitrust Division has yet to announce details of the workshops, but it came as good news to the broadcast lobby, which has long argued that the government needs to expand its definition of stations’ competitive markets. They face increased competition for advertisers from Google and Facebook.

“NAB strongly endorses a holistic review of Justice Department guidelines related to the local advertising market, and we’re encouraged by Mr. Delrahim’s comments,” said spokesman Dennis Wharton. “The idea that local broadcasting should continue to be viewed as a discrete advertising market under which radio and TV stations only compete amongst themselves for ad dollars is archaic.”

He added, “Google, Facebook and massively consolidated pay TV companies are major competitive threats to broadcasters in the local advertising market. Those challenges to the future of local broadcasting must be acknowledged by policymakers.”

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The FCC, which also reviews broadcast station mergers, has relaxed some of the rules under its Republican majority and recently launched another review of ownership regulations. Media companies are still limited in how many stations they can own, as current rules limit them to no more than 39% of all TV households. Public interest groups have decried the moves toward deregulation, and have argued that it endangers localism.

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