FCC Clarifies Position on Foreign Investment in U.S. Broadcasters


WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said it will consider applications by international investors who wish to own more than 25 percent of U.S. broadcast license holders.

A 1934 law limits foreign ownership of U.S.-organized entities that control broadcast licensees to 25 percent. The FCC says it will now review petitions for those seeking to own more than 25 percent on a case-by-case basis.

"The ruling potentially removes obstacles to new capital investment, which will support small business, minority, and female broadcast ownership, and spur innovation," the FCC said. "The clarification does not alter the FCC’s obligation to protect the public interest, including national security, localism and media diversity, in case-by-case reviews of each transaction."

A number of companies have been seeking a change in FCC caps on foreign media ownership. Last year, a group called the Coalition for Broadcast Investment (CBI) petitioned the FCC to exercise discretion in its enforcement of the 25-percent cap. The coalition included CBS Corporation, Hearst Television, ION Media Networks, Univision Communications and The Walt Disney Company, among others.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement: "The Commission is open to considering proposals for foreign investment in broadcast licensees that exceed the 25 percent statutory benchmark. I want to emphasize that we are 'open to considering' such proposals. This is far from an indication that we’re going to rubber stamp them. The Commission will look at each petition and application on a case-by-case basis to determine if approval to exceed 25-percent benchmark for foreign ownership is consistent with the public interest, including the goals established by Congress. Those goals include encouraging investment, innovation, media diversity, localism, and the efficient use of spectrum. The infusion of additional foreign capital has the potential to enhance the ability of broadcasters to use their spectrum to serve the needs and interests of their communities. Moreover, as we all know, the Commission is engaged in an extensive process to assure that spectrum is put to its highest and best use."