AT&T Can’t Easily Cut Connection With CNN or Turner

Will AT&T hang up on its quest for Time Warner if it can’t hang on to some of its most valuable assets? Answering that question could become paramount in the company’s effort to secure the $85 billion merger it proposed with Time Warner in October. Turner owns valuable sports rights, sharing with CBS the broadcast of the NCAA’s “March Madness” men’s basketball championship tournament. That event generated a record-setting $1.24 billion in national TV advertising in 2016, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Interview: Media Ownership Rules ‘Quite Antiquated’

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that the agency is studying restrictions on media ownership, characterizing a number of the rules as “quite antiquated.” In an interview with Variety, Chairman Pai said that an easing of such restrictions “is one of the issues that is under consideration. We haven’t made any firm determinations there, either.” Many broadcasters have championed the idea of lifting restrictions that limit the number of stations that one entity can own.

Also, in October, President Donald Trump said that he opposed the proposed merger of AT&T with Time Warner, saying that it was too much “power in the hands of too few.” A campaign adviser, Peter Navarro, now director of the National Trade Council, promised that Trump “will break up the new media conglomerate oligopolies that have gained enormous control over our information, intrude into our personal lives.” “We are studying the issue,” Chairman Pai said. “But what I can tell you is that having worked on that question [of media ownership] for a quite a while, I do think that a number of media ownership rules have become quite antiquated.” Asked whether he agreed that there was a problem with media concentration, Pai said that “we obviously have to take a case-by-case look as to the competitive landscape, and so it really depends on the geographic market, the product and service market that we are talking about. If it is a transaction that is involved, what are the competitive implications of the confirmation of that transaction? And so it is hard to opine in the abstract about a situation like that.”

Trump’s New FCC Chief Is on a Mission to Radically Revise Agency’s Policies

While outgoing Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler had presided over an activist commission, ready to act on marketplace trends that would seemingly threaten competition, Chairman Ajit Pai is convinced that the best approach is one that is largely hands-off. He has signaled a willingness to target regulations that he sees as stifling investment. Yet President Donald Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric may conflict with Chairman Pai’s laissez-faire approach, particularly when it comes to big media mergers. Pai already has said that the FCC would not weigh in on the AT&T-Time Warner combination. That would leave the Dept of Justice as the sole agency to assess the deal. But the FCC, which reviews transactions to determine if they are in the public interest, would have an easier path to block the merger than would the DOJ, which, more narrowly, weighs whether a combination conforms to antitrust law.

Trump Administration Withdraws Nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel to the FCC

President Donald Trump has withdrawn the nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel for another term on the Federal Communications Commission, leading to some speculation over how the White House plans to fill two vacancies on the commission.

The commission is split 2-1, with two Republicans and one Democrat. Rosenworcel, a Democrat, left the FCC at the end of 2016 after her tenure expired. President Barack Obama renominated her just weeks before he left office. The apparent expectation was that once President Trump took office, he would pair her nomination with a Republican choice and they would jointly go through the confirmation process. But Trump’s decision to pull her nomination has led to speculation that he would put forward another Republican and perhaps an independent or other Democrat more favorable to administration policy. In the past, the White House has deferred to Senate leadership in the selection of nominees from the opposing party. Democrats have already been vowing to push back if the administration tries to buck that tradition.

Tom Wheeler Interview: FCC Chairman Says Rolling Back Agenda Will Be ‘Easier Said Than Done’

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, who will depart the week of Jan 16, said that if the incoming Republican majority on the commission seeks to rollback his agenda, it will be “easier said than done.” In an interview with Variety, hours after he gave a speech at the Aspen Institute defending the FCC’s network neutrality rules, Chairman Wheeler said that moves to undo some of the actions taken in recent years will face public scrutiny. “The idea of taking things away that American consumers and American companies enjoy today is not the easiest thing in the world,” Chairman Wheeler said. “And there are processes in the Administrative Procedure Act that they have to follow in order to do this, and they have to withstand court scrutiny. That is easier said than done.”

Having come from industry, Chairman Wheeler said that as chairman he came to a realization that, in meeting with lobbying and other groups, “everyone comes in here and talks about how their self-interest is synonymous with the public interest.” He added, “And you know, I used to do the same thing. My ‘aha’ moment was that the public interest was a pretty malleable concept. The public interest is determined by the old adage, ‘Where you stand depends on where you sit.’ And so, what I have tried to do is say, ‘OK, we need another standard.’ And I kept saying to myself, ‘What is it that is in the common good, as differentiated from the public interest?’ Because the common good is how you can serve the good of the most people the best way.”

Vague Email Controversy Brings Out the Worst in TV News Media

If you have stood within earshot of a television, peeked at a social media stream, or scanned the front page of a newspaper, you may have noticed that e-mails are once again the subject of commentator frenzy. And yet there is little consensus on what, in fact, the news actually is. Oct 28, in an alarmingly vague letter to Congress, FBI director James Comey wrote that the investigation into whether or not Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had endangered national security by using a private e-mail server was once again, possibly, relevant. Reporting since then has indicated that the FBI investigation into disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, who may have sexted a 15-year-old, surfaced e-mails that were stored on the server — probably because Weiner’s now-estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is a top Clinton aide, and the two shared devices. Even in Comey’s initial letter, the possible involvement of Hillary Clinton is either tangential or speculative — the e-mails may have been on this controversial private server, but they may also have already been in the possession of the FBI, albeit on a different device. They may implicate Clinton or Weiner; they may also do no such thing. It is explicitly unknown, and Comey confirmed that in a leaked internal memo.

That has not stopped media organizations, in the full flush of pre-election coverage, to make this some kind of “October surprise” for the Clinton campaign, seizing on it as a turning point in the narrative of election 2016. And due to the confluence of Comey’s inept attempt at transparency and the media’s appetite for inflated controversy, Comey’s letter has had the effect of lighter fluid on the finally cooling embers of a house fire. This election has been defined by the breakdown of our best intentions in the Byzantine political-media complex, where time must be filled, takes must be filed, and we as a nation have struggled to wholly apprehend what we have become.

Layer3 TV to Launch in Chicago Soon, Backed by Altice and John Paulson

Secretive cable TV upstart Layer3 TV is getting ready to launch in Chicago (IL) in the coming weeks. Some of the money used to finance the launch comes from two previously unannounced investors: French telecommunication company Altice, through newly acquired US subsidiary Suddenlink, and Paulson Co., the investment company of famed hedge fund investor John Paulson.

A Layer3 spokesperson declined to comment on unannounced investors, but confirmed plans to launch in Chicago soon. “After an oversubscribed trial run in Texas, we look forward to making the Second City first in cable,” he said. Layer3 TV wants to compete with traditional cable companies by offering consumers a modern, 4K-ready set-top box, a DVR that records up to eight shows at the same time and no long-term contract obligations. The company launched a beta test under the Umio brand in late 2015 in Texas, and is now getting ready to enter a second market with its debut in Chicago. Layer3 TV has started to hire sales representatives and other necessary staffers to prepare for its roll-out in the city, and targeted local consumers with banner ads.

SAG-AFTRA Reaches Deal on New Movie-TV Contract

The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has reached a tentative deal with production companies for a three-year master contract covering movie and primetime TV work.

The performers union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have reached the agreement following nearly two months of negotiations -- and three 24-hour extensions of the contract expiration.

There were no details provided other than the disclosures that the new contract will replace the separate SAG and AFTRA contracts which have remained in effect since the 2012 merger.

SAG-AFTRA’s board will meet July 12 to vote on whether to send the new deal to members for ratification. The two sides had announced -- less than an hour before the union contracts expired at midnight -- that they achieved progress in the talks and had agreed to extend the expiration for 24 hours. The current SAG and AFTRA deals cover about 165,000 members.

Supreme Court Declines to Review Case Over Ads on Public TV

A law restricting advertising on public television will remain in place after the Supreme Court refused to review a case in which a San Francisco station challenged its Federal Communications Commission fine for airing messages from a bevy of commercial sponsors.

Minority Television Project, the license holder for public television station KMTP-TV in San Francisco, sought to overturn lower court rulings that upheld a 1981 law that restricts public stations from airing ads for commercial products or political candidates.

The station also said that the court should reconsider a 1969 Supreme Court decision that allowed the government to place some restrictions on broadcast content, arguing that the media landscape had changed so much in the last 45 years. It contended that it didn’t make sense that stations had limits on First Amendment protections while other media do not.