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Covington Helps Secure Change in FCC Foreign Investment Policy

November 18, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC, November 18, 2013 — The Federal Communications Commission has unanimously approved a request by the Coalition for Broadcast Investment to relax a long-standing cap on foreign investment in broadcast companies.

Covington & Burling represented the coalition in a two-year effort to secure greater opportunities for foreign investment in broadcasting companies under the Communications Act of 1934. Although the act gives the FCC the discretionary authority to allow more than 25 percent foreign investment in a broadcast company, for nearly 80 years the benchmark functioned as a ban on foreign investment above the 25 percent level, rather than as a trigger for the commission to exercise its discretion. By a 5-0 vote, the commission clarified that it will exercise its discretion to review foreign investment proposals above the 25 percent benchmark on a case-by-case basis and laid out the process for consideration of such proposals.

“This is a huge victory for broadcasters,” said Mace Rosenstein, who led the Covington team representing the coalition. “The FCC decision levels the playing field by making it possible for broadcasters to access capital on the same terms as their cable, satellite, wireless, and online counterparts.”

Access to capital is essential to a vibrant, competitive broadcast sector, Mr. Rosenstein said. “Improved access to capital markets is especially important to minority and women broadcast entrepreneurs,” he said. “The ruling is a significant step forward for ownership diversity in the broadcast sector.”

The coalition includes broadcasters such as CBS Corporation, The Walt Disney Company, Clear Channel Communications, Nexstar Broadcasting, Sinclair Broadcasting, Univision Communications, LIN Television, ION Media Networks, and Hearst Television, as well as community and civil rights organizations such as the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce.

The Covington team also included Gerry Waldron, Matt DelNero, David Fagan, Marney Cheek, and Muftiah McCartin.

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