Public Interest Obligations
Sinclair/Tribune deal friends and foes clashed on Capitol Hill Nov 15 at a debate and panel session hosted by the Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy. The forum did not break a lot of new ground, but there was some scorched earth, particularly when the issue of shared services and joint sales agreements came up.
The current media ownership rules limit any one entity from owning too many of the newspaper, radio, and/or television entities within a local market, in order to ensure viewpoint diversity. These rules are under attack. Broadcasters are spectrum licensees, and without some strong public interest requirements on spectrum licensees, we are at risk of losing local, community-centric information.
Even if the Federal Communications Commission relaxes its ownership rules, Sinclair and other broadcasters would still be blocked from owning two network affiliates in many cases by Justice Department antitrust regulators who have a cap of their own. It limits a broadcaster to controlling no more than 40% of the market's broadcast TV revenue. So, Sinclair is waging a campaign to increase that percentage by changing the way regulators define the local market.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai claimed in a New York Times Op-Ed that his ill-conceived plans to overhaul media-ownership rules are in fact a long-overdue move to rescue the struggling newspaper industry. The chairman’s piece is rife with lies of omission that render his argument meaningless.
Next week the agency plans to vote on an Order clearing the way for Next Generation Television. That means the agency is set to vote to on the introduction of ATSC 3.0. In other words, we are set to change the television standard yet again. I think the way the FCC plans to proceed is no great boon for consumers. It’s a tax on every household with a television. It’s time for the FCC to go back to the drawing board and find a less disruptive way to facilitate broadcast innovation. There’s a way to do it.
[Commentary] The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission will vote Nov 16 to allow just one corporation to own the local newspaper plus every commercial TV station in your town. Nifty way to reduce down to just one newsroom then dictate whatever information that corporation does – and does not – want you to know in this democracy. We know why Sinclair Broadcasting, renowned for its alt right editorializing over our public airwaves, wants to reach 72 percent of U.S. homes with its propaganda. We know this White House’s agenda.
The Coalition to Save Local Media, which is the coalition to block the Sinclair-Tribune merger, has added six new members, according to organizers, including a big union and leased access advocates.
[Commentary] Last week the Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, announced two orders that will be voted on later in Nov, which would roll back hard fought civil rights advances — at a time when our educational and economic opportunities, as well as political participation, are increasingly dependent upon communications infrastructure and technology.
NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, has told the Federal Communications Commission that Sinclair's response to the commission's request for more information on how it would comply with its rules in the Tribune merger were insufficient, and without that info the deal must be denied. That came in comments to the FCC filed Nov. 2.
Attorneys general from IL, MD, MA, and RI have teamed up to ask the Federal Communications Commission to block the merger of Sinclair and Tribune. The joint filing comes at the same time the Coalition to Save Local Media was urging all the state AG's to weigh in against the deal. The AGs principal beef appears to be the size of the deal, which would create the largest TV station group in the country reaching over 70% of the national audience.