Public Interest Obligations
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.
I’ve spent just over 30 years working to ensure that all Americans benefit from accessible, affordable, and open communications networks that promote democratic values. But none of that would have been possible without Everett Parker’s accomplishments. As this audience knows well, Everett worked hand-in-hand with the Rev. Martin Luther King and the civil rights community to challenge the broadcast license of WLBT-TV, a Jackson, Mississippi, station that broadcast racist propaganda and refused to cover the civil rights movement.
On June 28, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Company filed applications seeking to transfer control of Tribune subsidiaries to Sinclair. Sinclair and Tribune have amended their applications several times thereafter, in an attempt to bring the transaction into compliance with the Commission’s national television multiple ownership rule, as well as the public interest requirements of the Communications Act.
Rounding out our December meeting will be two matters that were previewed yesterday.
First, the Federal Communications Commission will consider an order that would restore Internet freedom and return to the bipartisan, light-touch framework that helped America's Internet economy become the envy of the world. And unlike the previous Administration, which pushed through its Internet regulations without letting the public see what was being proposed, anyone can read my plan. It's on the Commission's website —more than three weeks before our scheduled vote.
Senators Call for Impartial Investigation into Potential Quid Pro Quo between Chairman Ajit Pai, Trump Administration, and Sinclair Broadcasting
Sens Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and 13 of their Senate colleagues are requesting the inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) open an investigation into the objectivity and impartiality of the FCC’s review of the proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media.
The First Amendment protects us from limits on speech imposed by the government—not private actors—and we should all reject demands, in the name of the First Amendment, for private actors to curate or publish speech in a certain way. I shudder to think of a day in which the Fairness Doctrine could be reincarnated by some other name, especially at the ironic behest of so-called speech “defenders.” Further, like it or not, the First Amendment’s protections apply to corporate entities, especially when they engage in editorial decision making.
When it comes our August meeting’s main attraction, repurposing C-band spectrum for 5G, we feel the need — the need for speed. I circulated final draft procedures for a C-band auction to be held on Dec 8, 2020, and we will vote on them at our August meeting. They spell out the many details of the auction — competitive bidding procedures, application requirements, and deadlines governing participation in Auction 107. To spur the deployment of ultra-fast, world-leading 5G networks, we need to make C-band spectrum (among other spectrum bands) available as quickly as possible.
In this Order, we adopt the attached Consent Decree entered into between the Federal Communications Commission and Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Sinclair).
Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks have blasted the Federal Communications Commission’s Republican majority for approving a record $48 million fine against Sinclair Broadcast Group that opponents say allows the broadcast giant to avoid tougher scrutiny of its actions. On May 6, the FCC disclosed an agreement with Sinclair that settles three ongoing investigations into its actions and calls for the company to abide by the terms of a 17-page consent decree that was released May 22.