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Radio News: FCC will vote Nov. 16 to allow broadcasters to own TV, radio stations, and newspapers in the same market

Nov 09, 2017 9:14 pm
Federal Communications Commission Chairperson Ajit Pai seems set on eliminating most broadcast regulations by the time his term is over. On Nov. 9, The New York Times printed an op-ed that Pai wrote advocating that the FCC repeal its rule preventing local broadcasters from also owning a daily newspaper, or a radio or television station, in the same area. If Pai gets his way -- and with a Republican majority on the FCC now because the GOP controls the White House there's no reason to expect he won't -- broadcasters could own two television stations, an unknown amount of radio stations, and a local newspaper in the same market. Take Albany, New York, for instance. Sinclair Broadcasting already owns two stations, the CBS affiliate and the CW affiliate, on which they air national "news" that some say is closer to propaganda, often from recent Trump administration officials. If Pai's proposal is approved, The Albany Times Union could be purchased by Sinclair, and, maybe, several local radio stations too. Sinclair could have the power to change or control the public dialogue in Albany, quashing stories it does not like, and promoting others. Certainly, there would be fewer journalists working in Albany, as Sinclair would combine newsrooms to save money. The FCC is on the verge now of approving Sinclair's purchase of Tribune Media, which will change the number of stations they own from 173 to 215, with programming in 70 percent of American households. Slate reports, "In March the owner of [Sinclair] ordered its affiliates to double the amount of air time it gives to segments by its chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn, a former Donald Trump aide who slavishly parrots the administration’s line." Pai writes that if Facebook can own a newspaper and a television station in the same market, why can't Sinclair? Perhaps acknowledging that online media outlets need to play by the same rules as over-the-air stations could be a new regulation. But, there is little hope of that from the current lawmakers in Washington D.C., Instead, Pai says the FCC will vote on the proposal to deregulate the broadcast media at its Nov. 16 meeting. Expect it to be approved 3-2, then expect more journalists laid off, and less coverage of local issues. Pai has already jammed through similar proposals. Last month