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FCC votes to allow some broadcasters to buy more TV stations

21 April 2017

Thursday's changes, advocated by the agency's new chairman, Ajit Pai, and approved on party-line votes, reverse initiatives the FCC pursued under Democratic leadership during the Obama administration.

In August, the FCC, under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, voted to end the UHF discount.

A small group of protesters disrupted the meeting briefly, singing a song indicating they would fight any attempt to water down those rules, which are created to ensure the free flow of Internet content. In addition, she said it will prevent goals of Connect America Fund Phase II and the E-rate schools and libraries program from being reached. She opposed both regulatory changes Thursday. In some form of twisted logic, this FCC has determined these market conditions constitute "intense", "robust" and even "vigorous" competition.

"The overall approach is pretty simple - it's not to deregulate or over-regulate", Pai told reporters after the meeting.

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The decision could lead to a possible acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc of Tribune Media Co, some Democrats in Congress said.

Tribune Media was formerly Tribune Co., which owned The Times before spinning off its newspapers into a separate company in 2014.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he plans to take a new look at the current overall limit on companies owning stations serving no more than 39 percent of USA television households.

And the Commission, as expected and with the same 2-1 margin, restored the TV "UHF Discount" used in determining compliance with national ownership caps "until the Commission can address its national television ownership rule more holistically, in a proceeding to be launched later this year".

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The FCC today made optional a previously mandatory requirement that compelled the officers and board members of noncommercial educational (NCE) stations to report personal information. "This represents a rational first step in media ownership reform policy allowing free and local broadcasters to remain competitive with multi-national pay TV giants and broadband providers".

Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn called the vote a "huge gift for large broadcasters with ambitious dreams of more consolidation". Frank Pallone of New Jersey, wrote to Pai this week opposing the change. "The move also increases leverage for broadcasters enabling them to charge cable companies higher fees to carry their signals, a price ultimately borne by higher cable rates for consumers nationwide". Dominant telecommunications providers have long abused their incredible market power, and American businesses and consumers have suffered the consequences in the form of reduced economic growth and job creation, lower business investment in new operations and products, and higher prices passed on to consumers for goods and services. The data showed that approximately 97 percent of business customer locations had access to two or fewer BDS providers, with almost three-in-four locations with only a monopoly provider. The EU encouraged the FCC to rethink this proposal to consider how it might affect European companies.

"Price regulation is seductive", he said.

The FCC today opted not to regulate pricing for most business data services and began a process aimed at making it easier for service providers to retire copper networks. The changes will be phased in over three years.

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The FCC added 50 percent of the buildings in a county are within a half-mile of a location served by a competitive provider. The move will allow broadcast stations to grow larger and hurt competition and therefore consumers, Clyburn argued, adding the discount is "divorced from the technical realities of broadcast television in the digital age".

FCC votes to allow some broadcasters to buy more TV stations