Rep. McNerney Leads Letter Urging FCC to Seek Public Comment on Broadcast Ownership Rule Changes
Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) led a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, expressing serious concerns regarding the lack of opportunity for public comment on the Chairman’s proposal to eliminate existing TV broadcast ownership rules. Congressman McNerney, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was joined by 12 Democratic members on the Committee.
“The FCC’s proposal to eliminate current television broadcast ownership rules bypasses a more common and transparent process for a decision of this magnitude,” said Congressman McNerney. “A repeal of these rules will have a dramatic impact on the diversity of viewpoints American audiences will have access to, and they are entitled to a public comment period to make their voices heard.”
The letter underscores that the elimination of these ownership rules would make it easier for Sinclair Broadcast to merge with Tribune Media without having to make any divestitures. Additionally, since the proposal also includes the elimination of the media cross-ownership rules, Sinclair would be able to acquire newspapers and radio stations in the same local markets in which it owns TV broadcasting stations.
The letter urges Chairman Pai to seek additional public comment on the proposed rule changes before taking further action. Currently, the Commission is expected to vote on this proposal on November 16, 2017.
The following members joined Congressman McNerney in sending the letter: Reps. Mike Doyle (PA-14), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Peter Welch (VT), Bobby Rush (IL-01), Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), Eliot Engel (NY-16), and Diana DeGette (CO-01).
November 8, 2017
The Honorable Ajit V. Pai
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Dear Chairman Pai:
We write to raise serious concerns regarding your proposal to essentially eliminate the existing broadcast TV ownership rules with virtually no public input. This action, taken by way of a Reconsideration Order, is an obvious attempt to evade the notice and comment requirements that should accompany a decision of this magnitude.
The draft you released on October 27 takes steps akin to a statutorily-required Quadrennial Review of these same rules. Yet the sweeping deregulation, done at the behest of Sinclair Broadcast Group, among others, will provide the public with almost no opportunity to offer input and relies on data from three years ago. Using such tactics is contrary to prior reviews by the Commission, shirks the Commission’s duties under the Administrative Procedures Act, and is a disservice to the public interest.
Americans care strongly about these issues, as evidenced by the high level of public participation in the Sinclair-Tribune merger. Aside from the parties to the applications, practically all of the public comments in that merger docket are strictly opposed due to concerns about consolidation and the impact on local news. The local TV ownership rule changes you propose to make in this Reconsideration Order effectively pave the way for Sinclair to merge with Tribune without any divestitures at the local level, but at a serious cost to diversity of viewpoint from local news outlets.
This path of least resistance to approval appears only to benefit the few at the cost to the many. Americans rely on their local TV broadcasters for local and diverse content. It is frightening to imagine what the future holds if the Commission votes in favor of your proposal. There will be few boundaries for Sinclair—or other broadcasters—from consolidating the use of these important public airwaves into fewer and fewer hands.
We request that you seek additional public comment on these proposed rule changes. A transparent and open process will allow for a more thorough debate and better inform the Commission with current data before it takes such dramatic action.
Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.