FCC aims to remove ban on merger among top TV networks

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecom regulator in the US, said it aims to reverse an old guideline that bars a merger among the four largest broadcast TV networks.
tvNBC, owned by Comcast, Walt Disney’s ABC, CBS Corp’s CBS or Fox, owned by Twenty-First Century Fox are the largest broadcast networks, Reuters reported.

The FCC asked if the rule “remains necessary to promote competition, localism, or viewpoint diversity.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission is teeing up a number of questions and keeping an open mind on whether the rules still make sense.

The FCC noted that a version of the rule barring dual ownership of networks has existed since the 1940s and asks if U.S. antitrust laws or other policies would serve as a sufficient backstop to prevent undue consolidation between or among the Big Four networks.

The FCC also wants comments on a rule that bars one company from owning two TV stations in the same market except under certain circumstances. The FCC asks if those rules continue to serve the public interest and remains necessary.

The FCC will also consider if existing rules that limit the number of local radio stations in a single market should be rescinded.

The FCC noted in a report that broadcast networks face tough competition in content creation and cited the billions of dollars that Netflix, Amazon.com and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube are spending on original content.

“The gatekeepers of the past are no longer gatekeepers. Americans, using a broadband connection, can access any content, from any device, anywhere,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, said.

Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel raised concerns that consolidation can reduce the number of voices, jobs, and the newsgathering that results.

In November 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 to eliminate the 42-year-old ban on cross-ownership of a newspaper and TV station in a major market. It also voted to make it easier for media companies to buy additional local TV stations in the same market.