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FCC Rule Changes, Reexamining Media Ownership, Applauded by Latino Group

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First Posted: Mar 07, 2014 06:31 PM EST
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(Screenshot: C-Span)

The recent row over the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet rules, and net neutrality in general, isn't the only thing going on in the world of cable and its government regulator. Recent regulatory changes signaled by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler have been positive signs beyond the Open Internet kerfuffle, and a Latino watchdog is happy.

FCC Reassessing Media Ownership Rules

This topic is a little bit technical and wonky, but the news is basically that Tom Wheeler is planning on having the FCC do its job again. And, while Wheeler's latest move will probably benefit cable companies, that benefit will probably be passed down to customers.

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"Every four years, the FCC is required by law to assess its media ownership rules and determine if they need to be modified to serve the public interest," Wheeler begins on his latest FCC blog post. "In fact, it's been six years since the Commission last completed a quadrennial review, so it goes without saying that the video marketplace has changed dramatically since the FCC last updated these rules."

Wheeler then announced that the FCC would begin a new review later this year, seeking to assess changes in the media landscape in order to change its rules to preserve competition, local voices, and diversity in local media. The FCC doing its job and reassessing ownership rules for the media landscape is good news enough, but Wheeler announced a few things he will address immediately.

Changes Could Be Good For Consumers

But one thing Wheeler and the FCC will address immediately is called "joint retransmission negotiations." To translate his proposed action into plain English, cable and satellite operators have to pay in order to carry or "retransmit" broadcasters' stations, as we know.

But negotiations for payment are supposed to happen one on one. Instead, broadcasters have banded together in negotiations, which put pressure on cable and satellite companies, and ultimately drives up your monthly bill. Wheeler is proposing to prohibit two or more of the big local broadcasters from banding together and driving up the price -- a win for cable, but probably a win for consumers as well.

Latino Media Group Responds

The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), a nonprofit Latino advocacy group focused on media and diversity, responded to the FCC's announcement by applauding Wheeler's promise to return the Commission to assessing media ownership and promoting competition, while reminding the FCC of the importance of diversity in media ownership.

"While we look forward to examining all items related to today's announcements once they are released by the Commission, we are pleased that Chairman Wheeler has heeded the advice of NHMC and many others and put the final nail in the coffin of proposals advanced by former Chairman Genachowski that would have favored increased media consolidation at the expense of a greater diversity of voices," said Michael Scurato, Policy Director of the National Hispanic Media Coalition in a statement.

"We also hope that today's announcement represents a tacit acknowledgement by the Commission that it needs to collect and examine additional data on the impact of its rules on ownership of broadcast outlets by women and people of color prior to making any changes ... we hope that the Commission puts considerations of diversity front and center as it conducts its upcoming review."

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