Obviously, there's no bigger story this week than the possible impeachment of the 45th president of the United States. But if we still have your attention, here's some items of note we found this week. 1) Court Again Rejects FCC Attempt to Loosen Broadcast Ownership Rules. 2) Rebuilding Communications Infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands 3) Defining the Digital Divide.
The media merger pot keeps boiling. It appears that the Federal Communications Commission is about to approve another damaging deal, this one between Nexstar and Tribune. Nextar owns 171 television stations in 100 markets and Tribune has 44 stations in 33 markets. That translates into a national audience reach of 72 percent of U.S.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
The FCC ruled that there are substantial and material questions as to whether Sinclair is qualified to be a broadcast licensee. There is only one way to resolve these questions in a transparent manner that allows public participation: a hearing on the renewal of Sinclair’s broadcast television licenses.
Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction. The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues.
In April 2017, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, led the charge for his agency to approve rules allowing television broadcasters to greatly increase the number of stations they own.
The Federal Communications Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating a comprehensive review of the national television audience reach cap, including the so-called UHF discount used by broadcasters to determine compliance with the cap. The national cap limits entities from owning or controlling television stations that, together, reach more than 39 percent of the television households in the country. The Commission’s last review of this rule occurred when the video marketplace looked very different and most Americans had fewer options for watching video programming.
The Federal Communications Commission voted to modernize its broadcast ownership rules and to help promote ownership diversity in the broadcast industry. The Order on Reconsideration:
[Commentary] As the son of a broadcast pioneer who got his license from the Department of Commerce in 1923 and as a former broadcaster myself, I read with great sadness “FCC to Lift Limits on Media Deals.” Although Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai justifies his proposal by saying it will lead to more news gathering locally and more news for consumers, my experience tells me it will be the opposite. First, viewers and listeners don’t need more news, they need better news.