FCC to reverse rules on TV station purchases

Fri Mar 31, 2017 9:23am EDT
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday it would vote in April to reverse a 2016 rule adopted by the Obama administration that limits the number of television stations some companies can buy.

Under rules adopted in 1985, broadcasters could partially count some stations with weaker over-the-air signals against ownership caps. The FCC under President Barack Obama said those rules were outdated after the 2009 conversion to digital broadcasting and revoked them in September.

The 2016 rule did not require any company to sell existing stations but could bar new acquisitions.

Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc [NWSNA.UL] in September challenged the FCC rule.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement the FCC was likely to lose the legal challenge before the U.S. Court of Appeals. He said he wanted to revoke the rule and "launch a comprehensive review of the national ownership cap" later this year.

Current rules limit companies to owning stations serving no more than 39 percent of U.S. television households, but the Republican FCC could seek to eliminate or revise them.

The broad FCC ownership review could launch a new wave of consolidation in the broadcast television industry, analysts and companies said.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc (SBGI.O: Quote) has approached rival U.S. broadcaster Tribune Media Co (TRCO.N: Quote) to discuss a potential combination, Reuters reported earlier this month, citing sources, in a deal that would hinge on regulations being relaxed. [nL2N1GE1EM]   Continued...

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas