Sep 24, 2019

Court ruling deals local media consolidation a major blow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Federal Communication Commission's vote to relax decades-old broadcasting ownership rules was struck down Monday by a federal appeals circuit court, dealing a massive blow to local broadcasters looking to consolidate to survive.

Why it matters: It's unclear what the ruling means for the state of current transactions, or the many other companies looking to buy or sell stations based on the new ownership cap that has been struck down by the 3rd Circuit.

Case-in-point: Just last week the FCC voted to approve Nexstar's historic $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, which would create the largest U.S. local television group.

  • Gray Television's $3.6 billion takeover of Raycom last year was approved on the basis of the new rules.

Be smart: The ruling is also a rejection of the Trump-era FCC's philosophy that has pushed to deregulate legacy industries, like broadcast, to allow them to better compete with Big Tech.

What they're saying: Democratic FCC Commissioners are lauding the decision. Republicans are furious.

What's next: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the Commission will dispute the ruling.

Flashback: The local TV consolidation race is here

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The fight over small-town TV

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

TV station owners are taking advantage of FCC rules to quietly take over small-town airwaves, but cable and satellite companies are crying foul to regulators.

Driving the news: Broadcasters aren't supposed to own more than one top-rated outlet in any market, but they are snapping up multiple stations anyway in small markets like Parkersburg, West Virginia and Greenville, Mississippi, as the broadcast TV market is challenged by changes in technology and advertising.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019

Trump and FCC's Pai lunched after net neutrality decision

President Trump with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in April. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images


President Donald Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had lunch at the White House the day the FCC won a major legal battle over its repeal of net neutrality regulations, according to two people familiar with the gathering.

Why it matters: Interactions between FCC leaders and the White House have drawn intense scrutiny because the FCC is an independent agency. Both people described the gathering as a "family" event.

Go deeperArrowOct 8, 2019

Appeals court largely upholds FCC on ending net neutrality

Rally organizers carry away props following a protest outside the Federal Communication Commission building against the end of net neutrality rules in December 2018. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a complex ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the Federal Communications Commission's move to end net neutrality protections, but allowed states to set their own rules and sent portions of the original order back to the commission for clarification and review.

Why it matters: For a decade, net neutrality rules, which aim to prevent owners of internet networks from favoring some content and traffic, have been a lightning rod for conflict over internet governance. The new ruling means the FCC's 2017 removal of national net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration will stand, but opens the door to individual states mandating their own net neutrality protections.

Go deeperArrowOct 1, 2019