The FCC is hearing both views this week following Chairman Tom Wheeler‘s recent proposal to restrict local TV joint service arrangements. National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith came out swinging with a charge that the regulators are making it hard for broadcasters to promote localism and diversity — objectives called for in the Communications Act — according to notes publicly filed today of his visit yesterday with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. He says that Wheeler lacks solid evidence and “makes sweeping generalizations” that are “arbitrary and capricious” about the problems that arise when a station handles ad sales, programming, or retransmission consent negotiations for a rival in the same market. These collaborations “greatly foster localism and diversity,” Smith says. He says that Wheeler’s proposals “use a sledgehammer where a scalpel, if anything, is far more appropriate.” Smith also called it “manifestly unfair” to bar TV stations from collaborating when it “permits the cable industry to do so.” All in all, the NAB chief says, the FCC is “not doing everything it could to actually promote localism and diversity.”
Others are pressing regulators to hang tough. There’s already “ample record evidence” showing that station collaborations hurt the public, Andrew Jay Schwartzman and Angela Campbell of Georgetown Law School said in their visit with Clyburn yesterday. “If particular arrangements would serve the public interest … the Commission can and should craft … Read More »
The FCC enacted the rules in 1975 to help broadcasters and the NFL: Regulators say that if a sports league requires a TV station to black out a game – usually a football match that isn’t sold out — then cable and satellite distributors can’t offer it in the community either. But that may not serve the public interest “at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games,” Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn says today to explain why she circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to possibly scrap the rules. How much impact would that have? Possibly little. It wouldn’t prevent sports leagues, broadcasters and pay TV providers from “privately negotiating agreements to black out certain sports events,” she says. Indeed, the FCC notes on its website that the rules are “rarely involved in the sports blackouts you may have experienced” because they’re almost all due to contract terms between sports leagues and distributors.
Related: NFL Forcing Orlando TV Viewers To Watch Losing Jaguars
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UPDATE, 1:15 PM: Reactions are starting to come it to FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn’s warning that she might step in if the stalemate between CBS and Time Warner Cable continues. The cable company says it agrees that “consumers are being adversely affected,” and hopes that CBS “soon will come to a reasonable agreement with us.” A coalition of cable programmers and distributors, the American Television Alliance, says the FCC “has sat on the sidelines for too long” to fix a system that is “clearly broken.” But Medley Global Advisors’ Jeffrey Silva says Clyburn probably won’t do more than jawbone. “Lawmakers tend to think twice before getting into a scrap with broadcasters, finding their presence in Washington and their home states/districts a potential existential threat.”
PREVIOUS, 11:32 AM: It’s still a vague threat, but FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn told reporters today that she’s ”ready to consider appropriate action” if CBS and Time Warner Cable don’t settle the weeklong contract dispute that has left millions of TWC subscribers unable to watch CBS and Showtime. “Quite frankly I am deeply disappointed that the parties seem to be unable to reach a retransmission agreement,” Clyburn said according to Broadcasting & Cable. “I am really distressed that consumers and viewers are being adversely affected, and my primary concern remains with them. We will continue to … Read More »
The FCC Commissioner became Acting Chair — and the first women to run the regulatory agency — on Saturday taking the job just vacated by Julius Genachowski until the Senate (presumably) confirms President Obama’s choice to replace him, Tom Wheeler. “I see myself as a member of a relay team, running one of the middle legs,” Clyburn told FCC staffers today. “My job is to build on forward momentum, give the next teammate a running start, an improved position, and no matter what, my goal is not to drop the baton.” It could take months before she can pass that baton to Wheeler. The Senate likely will confirm him in tandem with a Republican to replace former Commissioner Robert McDowell who left the FCC on Friday. Presidents typically appoint someone recommended by the opposition leadership when there’s an FCC opening for the out party. But the Senate GOP has yet to make its pick. Leaders are seriously considering Duke University’s Michelle Connolly — a former FCC chief economist — Politico reports. Others being looked at include former Scripps Networks Chief Legal Officer A.B. Cruz, and Hill staff veterans Ray Baum and Neil Fried. Last week the U.S. Office of Government ethics disclosed that Wheeler — a former lobbyist who’s now an investor with Core Capital partners — said that if confirmed he would divest holdings in 78 companies including AMC Networks, Apple, Cablevision, CBS, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish … Read More »