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FCC December Meeting on Net Neutrality and Television Ownership Rules

By Barry Skidelsky

This blog entry further supplements my article on "Television and Radio Law in the 21st Century", which was published in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue (vol. 28, no. 4) of the EASL Journal.

On December 14, 2017, the FCC formally considered and adopted several noteworthy items, including inter alia, to restore the classification of broadband internet access service (BIAS) as an "information service" rather than a more heavily regulated "telecommunications service" (https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-takes-action-restore-internet-freedom).

This expected roll-back of the prior administration's Open Internet Order is merely the latest turn of events in a long and ongoing fight over "net neutrality." This action -- which affects all Internet users, including those who create, own, license, distribute and consume entertainment content -- will surely be challenged at the FCC and/or in court by multiple parties and amici (including tech titans such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix, as well as New York's and several other state attorney generals).

Of less public notoriety, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was adopted by the FCC initiating a comprehensive review of the national television audience reach cap (which rule limits ownership and control of television stations to 39% of U.S. households), including the rule's relationship to the so-called UHF discount, which discounts "attributable interests" held in UHF television stations (https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-opens-review-national-ownership-cap).

The effect of these proposed rule changes (which solicit and are subject to public comments) will be to further liberalize legal limits on ownership and control of television stations, to open the door to yet more mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and related transactional activities, and will likely lead to further media industry consolidation.

Entertainment lawyers should consider reminding their clients and friends that ad hoc coalitions are often organized to share the cost of preparing and submitting administrative and judicial filings addressing common concerns in these and other matters. For more information, please contact me at 212-832-4800 or bskidelsky@mindspring.com.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 15, 2017 4:02 PM.

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