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Price, Goodmon call for FCC to reverse rule affecting TV station ownership

FCC

Oct, 3 2017, 1:13 PM

Congressman David Price and Capitol Broadcasting Chairman and CEO Jim Goodmon are calling for the FCC to reverse a recent rule change impacting ownership of local TV stations. The demands came as Sinclair Media Group seeks to merge with Tribune Media in a deal that would create what has been called "a broadcast colossus."

"This is a power grab," said Price, a Democrat who represents North Carolina's 4th District which includes parts of the Triangle.

Goodmon, whose company operates WRAL and Fox 50 in the Triangle, said the FCC is "cooking the books" by reinstating a rule earlier this year referred to as the UHF discount. The rule was enacted years ago to make UHF channels more competitive with VHF and Goodmon pointed out in a conference call with the media that the rule is no longer relevant. By reinstating it, however, owners such as Sinclair can greatly expand station reach, Goodmon and Price noted.

"I can't believe Congress would allow it," Goodmon said, pointing out that station ownership rules are to be set by Congress. The FCC rule change is "usurping Congress's authority." Goodmon also stressed that he was not speaking out solely against the Sinclair-Tribune media or about the Triangle market. "I don't think anyone should be able to do this," he said.

Price added: "This is legislation that applies to anybody."

Goodmon added that "the FCC should reconsider this." Goodmon warns that the FCC decision also could have a ripple effect on other technologies, such as the Internet and satellite. For example, the FCC and Congress have feuded intensely over the issue of so-called "net neutrality," or Internet regulation.

Price's bill

The legislation Price advocates is designed to counter a recent change made in FCC rules regarding how local TV station ownership is calculated. The change was led by Trump Administration appointee Ajit Pai, whom was recently confirmed as head of the FCC byb the Senate.

Price says his bill will "protect local television markets across the country from corporate consolidation by permanently ending the 'UHF discount." He also notes that the UHF rule was reinstated in April only days before the Sinclair-Tribune merger was announced.

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and One America News Network President Charles Herring also participated in the call, each criticizing the FCC rule change. The four believe that approval of the $3.9 billion merger would "stifle" local diversity and competition.

Sinclair-Tribune holdings

In the Triangle, Sinclair operates two stations:

Sinclair also operates four other stations across North Carolina and 13 in all across the southeast.

Tribune Media operates WGHP, a Fox affiliate, in Greensboro.

Sinclair currently owns more than 170 stations across the United States.

Tribune Media owns 42 stations.

If the deal is approved, Sinclair would own TV stations that reach more than 70 percent of TV-viewing households, according to the entertainment news publication Variety.

The proposed merger would create what Variety calls "a broadcast colossus the likes of which the industry has never seen."

Sinclair has in the recent past considered launching its own cable TV network.

Sinclair and Tribune are expected to file soon information about how the firms believe the merger is in the public interest.

For a list of Sinclair stations, see:

http://www.stationindex.com/tv/by-owner/Sinclair

For a list of Tribune Media stations, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribune_Broadcasting

Note: WRAL TechWire is part of CBC New Media.





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