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As broadcasters' battles in Washington heat up, CBS and Fox rejoin trade group NAB

Major broadcasters have put aside past differences and are rejoining the National Association of Broadcasters as policy battles involving the industry intensify at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill.

CBS and Fox Broadcasting resumed their membership in NAB, the trade group said late Monday. The move comes in the wake of an FCC proposal to shift some spectrum held by broadcasters over to mobile broadband providers. The agency has promised to share the proceeds of those airwaves' auction with the broadcasters, but the NAB has been skeptical of the plan and says its members need the spectrum for future business plans, such as mobile TV.

"The interests of our industry, our company and our viewers are best served by speaking with one voice on Capitol Hill, at the FCC and in the courts," said Jack Abernethy, chief executive of Fox Television.

Broadcasters, suffering from an advertising downturn, are also bracing for a move by the FCC to impose new rules or guidelines governing retransmission fees between broadcasters and cable companies. Broadcasters, the FCC has said, should be able to pull their signals from cable providers when negotiations over fees break down. Broadcasters are also lobbying against The Performance Rights Act, which would assess fees from music labels on radio stations (CBS has 130 radio stations).

"As the media landscape evolves ever more rapidly, over-the-air broadcasting faces a number of clear opportunities and some significant challenges," said Martin D. Franks, executive vice president of planning, policy and government affairs for CBS.

All four major broadcasters -- ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX -- had left NAB over the past dozen years because of a policy dispute involving how many TV stations a broadcast network could own.

ABC rejoined NAB in 2005 and NBC rejoined in 2007. CBS has 29 television stations FOX has 27 owned-and-operated television stations.

By Cecilia Kang  |  May 11, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  FCC , Spectrum  
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