Last week, Chairman Pai gave a speech to the Media Institute in Washington, talking about his deregulatory accomplishments during his tenure as FCC Chairman.  Central to his speech was the suggestion that the broadcast ownership rules no longer made sense, as they regulate an incredibly small piece of the media landscape, while digital competitors, who are commanding a greater and greater share of the market for audience and advertising dollars, are essentially unregulated.  Not only are they unregulated, but the digital services that compete with broadcasting are owned and financed by companies who are the giants of the US economy.  In his speech, he noted that the company with the most broadcast TV ownership is dwarfed in market capitalization by the companies offering competing video services.

While the Chairman’s speech concentrated on television, mentioning radio only in passing, we note that many of these same issues are even more at play in the audio entertainment marketplace.  When the Chairman two months ago offered remarks on the hundredth anniversary of the first commercial radio station in the US, he recognized that radio has played a fundamental role in the communications world over the last century.  But that role faces more and more challenges, perhaps exaggerated by the pandemic when in many markets listeners are spending less time in cars where so much radio listening takes place.  There are many challenges to over-the-air radio as new sources of audio entertainment that sound and function similarly are more and more accessible to the public and more and more popular with listeners.  Over-the-air radio is already less a distinct industry than a part of the overall audio entertainment marketplace competing with streaming services, podcasts, satellite radio and other audio media.  These changes in listening habits are coupled with a change in the advertising marketplace, as the digital media giants now take over 50% of the local advertising market that was once the province of radio, television and newspapers.
Continue Reading Outgoing FCC Chairman Pai Calls for Modernization of Media Ownership Rules – Audio Competition Issues for the New FCC To Consider  

Here are some of the regulatory developments in the last week of significance to broadcasters -and a few dates to watch in the week ahead – with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC issued an order that locks in its

The Senate this week confirmed Nathan Simington for the seat on the FCC currently held by Michael O’Rielly.  It is expected that Mr. Simington will be sworn in as a new Commissioner later this week, allowing Commissioner O’Rielly to serve through tomorrow’s FCC open meeting where he will likely give his farewell comments to the FCC and communications audience.  Commissioner O’Rielly has generally been a friend to broadcasters, championing many causes for the industry, including changes to the Children’s Television rules and fighting pirate radio.  Broadcasters will certainly miss his voice at the FCC.

Commissioner Simington comes to the FCC with a relatively low-profile background.  He has been a lawyer for less than a decade, and his communications background appears to be limited to serving as an in-house lawyer for a wireless service company and working at the NTIA (the administration within the Commerce Department charged with developing communications policy for the administration and oversight over government spectrum).  At NTIA, he worked to some degree on the administration’s proposals for the FCC to interpret provisions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (see our posts here and here) – proposals currently under review by the Commission.  His outlook as a Republican appointee seems to generally be a deregulatory one, though his specific thoughts about broadcast regulation have not been set out in any detail.
Continue Reading New FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington on the Way

Here are some of the regulatory developments of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.  Also, we include a look at actions to watch in the week ahead.

  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his intention

This week, the appointment of Commissioner Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC became official.  Since his appointment on Monday, he has released a list of acting bureau chiefs at the FCC (here), including naming Michelle Carey, a long-time FCC employee, as Acting Chief of the Media Bureau upon the departure of Bill

The Senate on Monday approved, after months of delay, the nominations as new FCC Commissioners of Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai.  Once they are sworn in and assume their new jobs in the next few days, this will bring the FCC up to full strength with 5 seated Commissioners for the first time in a year.  Rosenworcel comes from having worked for the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees FCC regulation.  She previously worked as a legal assistant to former Commissioner Copps at the FCC.  Pai has also worked on the Hill and at the FCC, so both have experience with issues before the Commission.

So what do these nominations mean for broadcasters?  Probably, not much in the immediate term.  With the two new Commissioners being added to the FCC, the balance of power remains in favor of the Democrats.  But, as we have seen over the years, most Commission decisions aren’t decided on a partisan basis – in fact most are unanimous.  In the recent past, there are a few decisions where the Commission has been somewhat divided, with Republican Robert McDowell tending to take a somewhat more deregulatory position, as in connection with the recent ruling on online public inspection files for TV stations.  But party affiliation is not necessarily a guide to a Commissioner’s positions, as many of the proposals for broadcast re-regulation first arose during the Republican administration of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (see, for instance, the proposals for localism regulation and the original proposal for an online public file adopted in 2007). 


Continue Reading Two New FCC Commissioners Approved by the Senate – What Does It Mean for Broadcasters?