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O’Rielly Skeptical FCC Will Act on Ownership in June

Chairman has pledged Media Bureau recommendations by then

Republican FCC Chairman Michael O’Rielly isn’t convinced the FCC will meet its timetable for action on its media ownership rule review, but technically the FCC’s Media Bureau could come up with recommendations by then and still technically meet FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s pledge.

In a luncheon speech before a legal crowd in D.C. Tuesday, O’Rielly reminded his audience that the FCC has set a deadline of June for its long-delayed quadrennial review, but signaled he did not have much hope for that outcome.

Talking about the status of the media ownership item, O’Rielly said: “I am skeptical that the Commission will follow through on Chairman Wheeler’s promise to address our requirements under the statute this June. It is certainly possible that the Commission may circulate a draft item at that time but forgive me for being pessimistic after having the rug pulled out from beneath the feet of rationality so many times. Perhaps this will be the time that the Commission does what it is supposed to do, but I won’t hold my breath.”

He said he would not be surprised to see “a procedural repeat of the last election‐year media ownership item. In that instance, the proposed rule changes sat on circulation for quite a while and then the new FCC leadership summarily and illegally disregarded them, except for imposing additional burdens on joint sales agreements.”

The chairman’s office had no comment, but he did say in 2014 congressional testimony that he was committed to having “final recommendations” by June 2016. The Media Bureau could make recommendations by June, which could technically meet the deadline, rather than the chairman circulating an item.

An FCC source pointed B&C to the media ownership Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, about which the chairman said: “As noted by critics of our actions today, the Commission has been unable to complete the 2010 Quadrennial review. This does not reflect a lack of effort — my predecessor circulated an item in 2012 that languished for over a year…. In any event, we are committed to completing both reviews. I have instructed the Media Bureau to complete this review by June 30, 2016, essentially half the time normally allocated to such a review.”

Broadcasting & Cable