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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING OPPOSES DEREGULATION OF BROADCAST TELEVISION INDUSTRY
~ Herring Joins Coalition Urging the FCC to Maintain and Strengthen Rules that Protect Consumer Choices and Diverse Media Voices ~
RICHMOND (February 26, 2018) - Attorney General Herring today joined a multistate group of attorneys general in filing comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it not to allow excessive consolidation of television stations by a single owner. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that increased consolidation results in decreased consumer choices and a critical lack of diversity of voices in the media marketplace.
Pointing to the proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Company, the attorneys general urged the FCC to maintain the existing national audience reach cap, which currently prohibits broadcast television companies from owning stations that can reach more than 39 percent of households nationwide. The Sinclair-Tribune merger would create the largest television broadcast company in the country, reaching nearly 75 percent of households in America through more than 200 stations.
"The audience reach cap is a simple, effective way to ensure that Americans have choices about the news, editorial, and entertainment content they can see and enjoy," said Attorney General Herring. "Allowing one company to completely dominate the airwaves is bad for consumers and dangerous for our democracy."
In their comments, the attorneys general emphasize that modifying the national audience reach cap fails to further the public interest. In part, their comments state:
"Such an approach, if realized, would significantly reduce the number of independently owned and operated television stations, thereby limiting competition, reducing station ownership by women and minorities, and inhibiting the ability of stations to create and disseminate content that reflects the interests and preferences of individual localities. For example, Sinclair Broadcast Group-the largest owner of television stations in the United States-has distributed news stories and features that its stations were required to run in their evening or morning newscasts, regardless of station location. Local preferences could be lost in other contexts like sporting, religious, or scientific programming if, as a result of excessive consolidation, a large owner requires all of its stations to show particular sporting contests, religious celebrations, or scientific perspectives, regardless of the popularity of those sports, celebrations, or perspectives in certain areas."
In addition, the attorneys general encouraged the FCC to discontinue its reliance on an outdated method for calculating national audience reach known as the UHF Discount, which understates the audience reach of certain televisions stations by 50 percent. Because of this unusual calculation, some companies that own UHF stations can reach more than 75 percent of U.S. television households, far above the statutory limit.
In addition to AG Herring, the attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island filed today's comments.
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