The Federal Communications Commission has adopted to new
rules that will streamline the process by which foreign owners
can buy US broadcast properties.
The unanimous vote passed the rules at the
commission’s September meeting, the second time
they had been approved following a similar vote in October
The approved item extends to broadcasters streamlined
foreign ownership approval processes that currently apply to
common carrier wireless licenses. This means they no longer
have to survey or sample shareholders.
Previous FCC rules assumed that any unknown shareholder was
not a US citizen, but the revamped regulations mean
broadcasters will be made to take "reasonable measures" to
identify foreign shareholders with a predictable ability to
influence the company.
Foreign ownership of US broadcasters is limited by the
Communications Act, which states only a US citizen can directly
own a station. Though this will not change, the move will open
up the cable-box marketplace by allowing broadcast
licensee’s to petition for a declaratory ruling
including approval of up to and including 100% aggregate
foreign ownership of its controlling parent.
Until 2013, the FCC banned any foreign investment in US
broadcast stations that were greater than 25%. Even with the
relaxation of this 25% limit in 2013, however, there were no
standardized FCC approval procedures for indirect ownership in
excess of 25%.
The item also allows a non-controlling foreign ownership
stake to be raised to 49.99% without having to petition the
"These same streamlined procedures have worked well in the
common carrier context, and I’m confident
they’ll work in the broadcast context," Republican
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said at the agency meeting.
"They’ll make it easier for broadcasters to
access capital, while at the same time ensuring that any
foreign ownership above the 25% benchmark… does not
compromise our national security or any other public