FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he has circulated a media ownership item for a vote at the November meeting that would achieve major broadcast deregulation.
It would eliminate the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules, the radio-TV crossownership rule, eliminate the eight-voices test for duopolies, eliminate the attribution rules for joint sales agreements, concluding they serve the public interest, and “finally, finally,” the chairman said, establish an incubator program for new, diverse entrants.
The chairman outlined the item at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing Wednesday (Oct. 25). The committee was prepared for the bombshell. “It’s curious that this hearing is scheduled for today in particular — just one day before Chairman Pai is expected to make public at least one proposal that enriches a single company above others, and that would clear out any last obstacles to Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchase of Tribune Media Company,” said ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).
Pai has long signaled such deregulation was coming, likely by before the end of the year and broadcasters have long pushed for such deregulation, arguing it was designed for a marketplace without MVPD and online competition. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who was also at the witness table, said the proposal was to get rid of the best of broadcast regulations.
House Democrats on the panel suggested the deregulation was yet another thumb on the scale for the Sinclair-Tribune deal.
A determined, almost combative, Pai said that the text of the decision would be published Thursday, calling it “news that’s fit to print.”