Henry Geller, who as the general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission during the Johnson administration and activist head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Carter years played a large role in the development of broadcasting, cable and telecommunications over the last quarter of the 20th century, died in Washington (DC) April 7 after a long battle with cancer. He was 96.
Both DirecTV and long-time rival Dish Network have recently reported fourth quarter 2018 operating results and the numbers are not good. DirecTV lost 403,000 subscribers in the quarter, compared to 147,000 in the same quarter of 2017. The service is now shedding subscribers at a rate of 6.1% per quarter. The satellite operators are suffering from the same problem as cable operators are — the proliferation of broadband over-the-top (OTT) services.
The 957 stations moving to new channels in the Federal Communications Commission repack of the TV band might get up and running on those channels in two years as the agency has mandated, but many may have to settle for temporary side-mount antennas and loss of coverage for three to five years because there aren't enough tower rigging crews to go around. What can be done?
[Commentary] It makes sense for Sinclair to keep things rolling at the Federal Communications Commission and close on the Tribune merger before a possible adverse court ruling on the FCC's UHF discount, which could come in August or September. I think that Sinclair now understands the urgency. The regulatory and legal picture is complicated. But under all the scenarios, its chances improve the quicker it moves with the Fox deal, the FCC process and the closing.
[Commentary] The FCC chairman has done much to advance his deregulation agenda but there’s one conspicuous exception — the local TV ownership rule that prevents ownership of two top-four stations in a market. To put such combos together, you have to get what amounts to a waiver and that can be costly and time consuming.
[Commentary] The affiliates want the Federal Communications Commission to impose a 39 percent ownership cap on the networks to keep the networks’ power in check. But that’s not what regulations are for — they should protect the public, not one business from another.
I hope that individually or collectively affiliates find a way to bring back a balance of power so that their relationship with the networks becomes a true partnership. But the FCC should not be that way.
[Commentary] Sinclair’s behavior in trying to merge with Tribune is doing it — and the entire broadcasting industry — no favors. By dragging out this process, and by pressing for every advantage, Sinclair is making life difficult for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who has been broadcasters’ best friend in that job in decades.
[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission's tentative $13.4 million fine against Sinclair for allegedly airing news programming that was paid for by a sponsor is just one more example of antiquated rules targeting broadcasting alone. The FCC needs to rid itself of discriminatory rules and the sponsor-disclosure regime would be a fine place to start.
With Tribune, Sinclair goes from a large collection of TV stations to a national broadcasting platform with ambitions that go far beyond those of the Big Four networks. And that larger footprint, Sinclair figures, will allow it to roll out game-changing innovations including ATSC 3.0, mobile datacasting and targeted interactive advertising. These all have the potential to remake the entire television broadcasting business into a force that can vigorously compete with online and mobile.
[Commentary] There is unlikely to be another presidential campaign like the one that made Donald Trump our 45th president last year. But there are lasting lessons for local broadcasters to be derived from it: 1) their lock on the presidential spend may not be as strong as they might think; and 2) as sellers they have to get as smart about Big Data and targeted advertising as the buyers.