The National Association of Broadcasters is asking the Federal Communications Commission to reject a petition filed by a trio of advocacy groups that seeks to reverse the decision to abolish the Radio Duplication Rule. The NAB says the FCC correctly recognized there has been significant technological and marketplace changes since the Radio Duplication Rule was adopted nearly 30 years ago. Not only did the MusicFirst Coalition, the Future of Music Coalition and low-power advocacy REC Networks fail to present any new arguments in their appeal, according to the NAB, but they also exhibited “a complete misrepresentation of the business fundamentals of the radio industry and the intense competition radio faces, and a total lack of understanding of the market value of AM/FM radio spectrum.”
The Commission approved on a 3-2 party-line vote last August the elimination of the simulcast rule that had been in effect since 1964. The Radio Duplication Rule, last updated in 1992, had limited stations to airing up to 25% of total hours in an average broadcast week of duplicative programming when there is a substantial 50% overlap of their principal signal contours or common ownership.
In the group’s joint petition for reconsideration, they said what was adopted was “highly problematic both substantively and procedurally” and should be overturned. That included a final decision that applied the change to stations regardless of which band they are on, despite initially only including AM in the draft order released prior to the vote. The group said that violated the Administrative Procedure Act. They also said the rule change will lead to more programming duplication, giving listeners a less diverse radio dial.
But the NAB says evidence that is not the case grows by the day. It points out that since the rule change took effect in October, there has not been a massive swing toward simulcasting. “If petitioners’ claims were accurate, surely we would see at least one radio station among the thousands licensed today decide to forego offering unique programming so that it can simulcast in the same market. But since there is no business model where such an action would make any sense, stations have not pursued this course as the Commission rightly predicted,” said the NAB.
The petition of reconsideration makes no mention of radio’s ongoing fight over performance royalties, but the move by the MusicFirst Coalition and the Future of Music Coalition into rules governing simulcasting raised a red flag at the NAB. It told the FCC that the groups are only trying to “retaliate against broadcasters” for being able to convince Congress not to adopt a performance right on broadcast music use. “The rule is a perfect example of an unnecessary regulation that can needlessly hinder broadcasters’ ability to efficiently serve Americans, particularly during crises,” said the NAB.