Rosenworcel: FCC In Cahoots With Sinclair?

Speaking at Wednesday’s oversight hearing before the House Communications Subcommittee, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says she's suspicious of recent FCC actions that seem designed to benefit Sinclair Broadcast Group. "I think it is something that merits investigation.” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said he would be looking into FCC's evasiveness on Sinclair and other matters.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for an investigation into what she said is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s push for rules changes and polices that seem “custom-built” to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Speaking at Wednesday’s oversight hearing before the House Communications Subcommittee, Rosenworcel said she is concerned that the FCC will likely approve Sinclair’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, even though approval will extend Sinclair’s reach to more than 70% of U.S. TV homes.

“I’m also concerned that if you look at the series of media policy decisions that has been made by this commission, they all seem to serve Sinclair broadcasting’s business plan — from reinstating the UHF discount, to changing the 39% rule that was enacted by Congress, to possibly foisting on all of our households a new broadcast standard for which they own many, many patents.

“I think it has reached a point where all of our media policy decisions seem to be custom-built for this one company, and I think it is something that merits investigation.”

In his questioning of Pai, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) expressed displeasure that Pai has not been responsive to his inquiries about Sinclair and suggested that more scrutiny was needed.

“We are going to look into your continued evasiveness of some of these issues, including Sinclair,” he said. “I’m not going to tolerate the agency not responding to us.”

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Erik Stone says:

October 25, 2017 at 4:14 pm

I assume she represents the liberals in the FCC.

These rules benefits the industry to compete among monsters. The rules are antiquated and the choice of news is always a click away and in your pocket. Why restrict growth in industry based of laws designed to keep public voice in check only when there was three voices of news period.

    Just Fine says:

    October 25, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Three voices of news? Really? In what world has there only been three voices of news? What is this weird medium that thinks Fox News, Sinclair, Tribune (in a lot of markets, Tribune has been consistently conservative), iHeart Radio, News Corp (the newspaper division that was spun-off from Fox), CBN, OANN, Newsmax, Trinity Broadcasting (the largest TV group in the US), The Daily Caller, PJ Media, Educational Media Foundation (K-Love),The Washington Times, and Clarity Media aren’t part of the “mainstream media?”

    Shenee Howard says:

    October 25, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    “compete among monsters”? Sinclair is the monster, now. And what used to be an unbiased local newscast in many areas (compated to FNC, CNN, MSNBC), are now biased. That is not in the public interest. And don’t kid yourself, regional multi state “local” news is coming, NewsCentral again, in place of local news.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    October 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    You can’t help but chuckle at Jessica’s hypocrisy. Last year, she, Wheeler and Clyburn were feverishly trying to dismantle the broadcast television by eliminating the UHF discount, JSAs and the incentive auction. Now she’s suddenly gone all protective over the integrity of TV news because Trump has threatened to yank NBC’s licenses due to its fake news content and the Sinclair-Tribune merger will supposedly increase the footprint of conservative reporting to a reckless degree. She’s transformed herself into a low-flying, political hack.

kari hamon says:

October 25, 2017 at 4:58 pm

I think it would be more appropriate for investigators to look into the motives behind why the democrat / liberal commissioners ALWAYS vote against what could potentially benefit broadcasters that are working to serve thier communities. What’s that all about?

Julien Devereux says:

October 25, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Oh, this is going to “help” TV a lot, but unless this is only for TV, it’s going to “help” radio even more. Between just iHeart and Cumulus, there are well over 1600 signals that could all be programmed, aired, and officed at either Premiere or Westwood One hubs, with no offices or studios at any of their markets. (At least there will be a toll free number for the public to call, and I’m sure they’re going to set up boiler room call centers to handle the calls from all over the country, right?) Sales? Done on the internet with forms on a website. I’ll bet there are a few thousand people around the country wondering if they will have careers, let alone jobs, a year from now. I really can’t wait to hear how all of this is going to be “in the public interest.” I haven’t had a really good laugh for a while.

    Andrea Rader says:

    October 25, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Much of what you’ve mentioned already happened years ago. There’s this thing called the internet, and it’s not going away. Survival for legacy media is a matter of adapt or die. You can’t roll back the clock.

Shenee Howard says:

October 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm

The reinstatement of the UHF discount has only one reason – to increase ownership caps. There is not one technical or viewer issue today that justifies a discount for what used to be a poor quality signal. Call it what it is. And any further expansion of ownership levels should go through normal rule making and hearings.

    John Livingston says:

    October 26, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Wrong UHF discount is good for the free market place working and the FCC is looking at everything something that Jessica who was lap dog for Wheeler getting rid of UHF discount last year broke the rules. At least Pai righted Wheelers & Jessica’s wrong last year.

Ellen Samrock says:

October 25, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Considering that most of Sinclair’s stations are CBS, NBC and ABC affiliates this is a total non-issue. Jessica and her friends are suffering from PDS, Pai Derangement Syndrome.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    October 26, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Which has nothing to do with what Ms. Rosenworcel is concerned with… please re-read the story and you might (unlikely) get the gist of the concerns she voiced.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    October 26, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Hey, it’s Mr. I’m Not A Sociopath doing his usual stalking/trolling routine. It’s not a question of not comprehending, it’s a matter of not believing. If you want to gullibly believe her faux hand-wringing over the UHF discount, go ahead. I don’t for a second believe it.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    October 26, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Again, with the ad hominem attacks (always means you don’t have an argument.) There is absolutely no reason the “UHF Discount” should have been reinstated in this day and age. There is ZERO technical reason for it – other than to skirt ownership rules… By the way, if you don’t want anyone questioning your comments, stop posting.

    John Livingston says:

    October 26, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    UHF discount is needed since it’s free market at hand and is working which is still needed in this day and age Wheeler was wrong to get rid of it which he broke the rule and Pai righted that wrong which is a good thing.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    October 27, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Not sure in which world government intervention provides a “free market” as you suggest. There is ZERO reason for the UHF Discount unless you count helping companies skirt rules about the percentage of people they reach. By the way, most adults use periods at the end of sentences and don’t write incoherent run-on sentences.

Snead Hearn says:

October 26, 2017 at 9:19 am

So you have a broadcaster who owns liberal stations (ABC,CBS,NBC) and everyone is afraid of the broadcaster because they are considered conservative. Just don’t watch the local news on those stations if you are so afraid that they will give the other side of the story. Broadcasters need to adapt or they are not going to make it and Sinclair did not make the rules but they are finding a way to make the rules work for them. Jessica wants to disrupt, deny and attack anything to do with Sinclair… Sad scenario.

Mike Henry says:

October 26, 2017 at 9:54 am

Those who support a company like Sinclair getting bigger like this clearly don’t understand what is best for consumers. There’s a reason why most Americans hate big corporations, because they serve the executives and stockholders while shafting responsibility to the consumer. If it were NBC, ABC or CBS using such laws to reach 72% of U.S. homes, conservatives defending the deal would be stomping up and down to curtail them from doing it. No one should be advocating for companies of any kind to get bigger, whether it’s a media company, a bank, an airliner, no matter what. That’s why the American people are getting a raw deal by big corporations, and if we keep consuming the tripe that the big corporate apparatus is good for America, the megacorps will continue to run us over worse than they do now.

Conservatives don’t understand that the bias that the “mainstream media” has is actually toward the Washington establishment on both sides of the aisle. Companies like Sinclair want them to think the rest of the media is liberal, because they want to ensure that if someone disagrees with the view that tax breaks for the rich are actually going to the middle class or a mega-merger will lead to more jobs, the red meat they put out will keep the wool over their eyes to the fact that they’re getting bilked like the rest of us. The rich get richer; they benefit, not you. Unfortunately, these talking points blind people to this. Rosenworcel knows that if the media becomes less diverse and more partisan toward either side, the political discourse in the country worsens, and trust in the media worsens, and that’s not good for a democracy. More power to her and others who want to stand up for this cause.

    Julien Devereux says:

    October 26, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Nailed it!

Marilyn Hyder says:

October 26, 2017 at 9:59 am

Sad for FCC-Chairman who took oath to Constitution now turns back to it in favor of taking “knee” to Trump.

Sean Smith says:

October 26, 2017 at 9:59 am

What is so bad about Sinclair increasing the number of stations it owns? I’ve been following the merger ever since it was announced, and I’ve listened to both sides of the debate for months. Other than Boris Epshteyn, I don’t understand the objections (SPOILER ALERT: I don’t really care for his commentary, but I haven’t seen the gun yet that’s forcing me to pay attention to it). For many years (actually since 1948), ABC, CBS and NBC (and later FOX) have basically “owned” stations through affiliation contracts. Those agreements basically bind the stations to air content supplied by the networks. Just try to refuse to air an NBC or CBS news program, regardless of what’s in it. You’ll violate the contract, which has penalties built in for violations. I don’t see Sinclair doing anything any different than the Big Four Networks have been doing for years, except one company will actually own the stations, instead of owning them through a legal, binding contract. Television is an evolving business.. I’ve lived through every evolution TV has gone through, even the Rulemaking changes of 1951 and 52, that saw many stations reassigned channel numbers (you think Sinclair-Tribune is a big change? Try living in Louisville and all of a sudden WAVE-TV isn’t on Channel 5 anymore, it’s on Channel 3 and it’s hard to pick it up now…. try living in Cincinnati and WLWT-TV isn’t on Channel 4 anymore, it’s on Channel 5, which doesn’t come in on my new Zenith.. try living in Atlanta and WSB-TV isn’t on Channel 8 anymore, it’s way down on Channel 2 and there’s a ridge between them and your Admiral TV set that makes Channel 2 come in snowy). We also survived the switch from black and white to color, which increased the cost of TV sets by hundreds of dollars. We survived analog to digital, which skyrocketed the price even higher. Those prices changed. Ownership rules have to change, too. Everybody’s blowing off steam, sending up alarms and flares, but so far, I, for one, has not see anybody prove that a Sinclair-Tribune merger, that the public interest will not be served.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    October 26, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Ah, you must be a “news oldie” to remember WSB on channel 8… but are you old enough to remember “WCON-TV” in Atlanta?? (Kind of a trick question…)

Angie McClimon says:

October 26, 2017 at 10:00 am

Here’s the kicker: There are many conservatives who are just as opposed to this as liberals are. If Pai has a clue and reads the oppositions submitted to the FCC, he’d be smart to oppose it himself. I’ve reviewed many of submissions at the FCC and can’t find one that supports it. Pai is extending the comment time to try to get support for it. He’s not going to get it.

    Mike Henry says:

    October 26, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Yeah, but will Pai get a clue is the question? Rosenworcel wants an investigation because she informed herself of what’s going on, in addition to being on the inside as this deal is going. But the true motives of why Pai is moving to deregulate the industry so fast is a question. Sure he’s been against tightening ownership rules since Wheeler became his boss, but anyone else would move a little slower and follow the process. We’ve had Republican chiefs of the FCC in the past that wanted to deregulate the media industry, but weren’t able to do so. Rosenworcel knows something is fishy here since Pai met with Sinclair executives before he was even promoted, and it has been reported that Sinclair gave him a wish list of rules they want deregulated. Someday, we may find out that Sinclair paid off Pai, maybe even O’Rielly and Carr, leading to an RKO General-style debacle for Sinclair at the extreme. Given how many scandals the Trump administration has been mired in, it’s a high likelihood that’ll happen.

Snead Hearn says:

October 26, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Ridgeline… I remember WCON-TV hoping for channel 2 that never came to be…. I am old….

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    October 26, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Well, I don’t remember it (as I was born in the mid-60s) but I’ve read about how The Atlanta Constitution was seeking to start WCON-TV channel 2 after The Atlanta Journal had started WSB-TV, the second oldest TV station in the South (which was on channel 8). But that was never to come to fruition when the two independent newspapers combined. Instead, WSB moved to channel 2.

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