Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

A big year of wins for the broadcasting industry is about to get even bigger with a pair of votes at the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

Why it matters: Local television affiliates remain a popular way for many Americans to get their news. Deregulation has ushered in a new era of consolidation for those stations through the controversial Sinclair-Tribune deal and is good news for the broadcasting giants left standing. Broadcasters also want to take advantage of new technology to target viewers with ads to better compete with Facebook and Google.

The details: The agency's five commissioners will vote on two proposals that are seen as victories for the local TV and radio business. The FCC is expected to approve them in party-line votes.

  • One proposal would lift rules that say one company can't own a television station and a newspaper in the same market and a similar rule for owning both radio and television stations in a market. It would also allow the FCC to waive a prohibition against owning two of the top television stations in a market on a case-by-case basis.
  • A second proposal will approve a new technical standard that allows broadcasters to track their viewers in much the same way web services like Google or Facebook track users, and use that information to target them with ads.

It'll be an early holiday gift for an industry that's already having a pretty good year in Washington. In April, the FCC voted to reinstate an ownership rule that allowed Sinclair to move ahead with its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune stations. And the commissioners voted in October to axe a rule that requires a station to have a primary studio in the community it covers.

Opponents of the proposals argue that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is pushing for deregulation to benefit the right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, which they allege forces a Make America Great Again message on its local affiliates from its Maryland headquarters. If the FCC approves its deal with Tribune, Sinclair will be the only broadcasting company to own more than 200 stations, according to a Pew analysis, making it one of the most powerful companies in media.

More broadly, the Democrat-led opposition to Pai's deregulation measures argue that it will result in more local stations being owned by big corporations without ties to the communities they're serving and limit the diversity of voices on the air. "You know there's a pattern of the FCC hurting the little guy and providing fewer and fewer choices for consumers," said Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, who is critical of Sinclair.

The other side: The industry argues that these policies are good for TV and radio stations that aren't part of the big conglomerates. "All broadcasters — not just the biggest — will benefit from reform of ownership rules that stem from the era of 'I Love Lucy,'" said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, in an email. "If you like the idea of preserving and enhancing free and local television, you'll like Chairman Pai's agenda."

Pai himself has noted that there are Democrats who have supported repealing the ban on owning both a television station and a newspaper in the same market. An FCC spokesperson said in a statement that Pai is "working to free all types of broadcasters from unnecessary regulatory burdens" and that "given the strong case for modernizing the Commission's media ownership rules to reflect the digital age, it's not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to impugn his motives rather than try defend on the merits a rule as outdated as the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule."

Be smart: Broadcasters will go into 2018 with a policy landscape that's more permissive of consolidation and allows them to more effectively match the targeted ad offerings of digital ad leaders Google and Facebook.

Go deeper

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.