How is broadcast television and radio regulated?

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Television Regulated Radio Communications Law Intellectual Property

How is broadcast television and radio regulated?

In order to broadcast radio or TV signals within the United States, it is necessary to first obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Although there are some exceptions for very low power radio transmitters, such as those in CB radios and walkie-talkies, transmitters whose signal can travel distances (even “ham” radio) must be licensed and comply with FCC rules. Full power television and radio stations also must receive licenses from the FCC.

Because radio frequencies can travel long distances, particularly at night, they are licensed according to geography and common ownership rules. The FCC has specific rules preventing stations from interfering with the signals of other stations. For example. if there is one station broadcasting at 880 on the AM dial from New York, no other station within over a 1,000 or more miles can use that frequency. As available spectrum is limited, only a limited number of licenses can be issued. As a result, broadcast licenses have huge value, particularly in major metropolitan markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Atlanta, and Washington/Baltimore.

Additionally, to encourage a diversity of viewpoints by media sources, the FCC limits entities from acquiring more than a certain number of stations nationally, or in each market. These broadcast limits were relaxed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and that has stoked broadcast mergers and acquisitions.

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