Pai Invites TV Duopolies Into Every Market

In House testimony Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai unveiled his dereg plan that would allow  broadcasters to own two TV stations, possibly two network affiliates, in any market regardless of size, and operate still more stations in the same market through JSAs and SSAs. The current restrictions are outdated, he says. They presume that the market is still defined by “pulp and rabbit ears.” A full draft of his proposal is due out Thursday.

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.

James Murdoch: Unaware Of $32M Settlement

James Murdcoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, said the amount of the $32 million sexual harassment settlement paid by former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was “news to me.”

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Expanding Weigel Buys Into S.F., Seattle

The Chicago-based broadcaster is paying spectrum aggregator OTA Broadcasting $23.2 million for KFFV and KVOS, both Seattle, and KTLN and low-power KAXT, both San Francisco.

Ryvicker: Ownership Dereg Coming Nov. 16

Wells Fargo securities analyst Marci Ryvicker says FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s much anticipated relaxation of the local ownership rules may happen at the FCC’s next open meeting and it might go so far as to allow Big Four duopolies in every market. The result: “a stronger industry overall.”

Twitter To Disclose Info On Political Ads

The move follows similar steps by Facebook and the introduction of a bill that seeks to bring more transparency to online political ads in an attempt to lessen the influence of Russia and other foreign entities on U.S. elections.

FCC Minority Laments Loss Of Studio Rule

In separate dissenting statements, Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn says the FCC majority erred in completely eliminating the rule. Instead of taking a “sledge hammer” to it, the three Republicans should have agreed to a compromise, like a more lenient waiver policy. And Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says the action will “hollow out” broadcasting’s tradition of local service.

O’Reilly Scandal Puts Heat On Fox UK Bid

Revelations that U.S.-based Fox News renewed O’Reilly’s contract after he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit for $32 million came just a month after Britain’s culture secretary asked competition regulators to review the takeover. Karen Bradley said one of the reasons for her decision was that Fox News’ handling of a broader sexual harassment scandal raised concerns about corporate governance at Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

FCC Wants To Reduce Reporting Rules

It proposes that some TV broadcasters could stop filing annual reports about so-called ancillary or supplementary services. The FCC also seeks comment on whether to allow broadcasters to notify the public of broadcast license applications through the internet, rather than through newspapers and over-the-air announcements.

FCC Eliminates Its Main Studio Rule

The commission says the action will further reduce regulatory burdens and costs for broadcasters. NAB and MMTC applaud the action.

COMMENTARY BY CHRISTOPHER RUDDY

Sinclair-Tribune Could Damage Local News

Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy: “While President Trump has been condemning “fake news,” his very own FCC is pursuing policies that will lead to the greatest concentration of television media power in history.”

Q&A WITH ERIC RINGER

FAA Rule Changes Coming For Drones

The FAA is working to revise rules for commercial drones to allow easier access to controlled airspace, such as around airports, through a new process known as the LAANC system. Eric T. Ringer, senior product manager and co-founder of Skyward, discusses the changes and how they will affect broadcast TV drones in the future.

AT&T, Time Warner Extend Merger Deadline

AT&T and Time Warner have pushed out the closing deadline for their $85 billion merger as the companies are still seeking antitrust approval from the Justice Department. After the Oct. 22 deadline passed over the weekend without the deal being finalized, the companies filed with the SEC to extend the termination period for a “short period of time to facilitate obtaining final regulatory approval required to close the merger.”

N.Y. AG Launches Weinstein Co. Investigation

Eric Schneiderman’s office says it issued a subpoena seeking all company records.

FCC Approves Sale Of ‘Zombie’ Station

The FCC has, for the first time, approved an application for the assignment of the license of a television station that agreed to relinquish its spectrum in the Broadcast Television Incentive Auction but has not yet commenced channel sharing.

Dems To Grill Pai Over Trump’s NBC Tweets

Democrats will get the chance to grill the chairman of the FCC over President Trump’s tweets attacking media outlets during a hearing Wednesday. The House Commerce subcommittee on technology will hold its first FCC oversight hearing since the agency added two commissioners over the summer. And a new controversy involving the president will take center stage.

JEASELL AT LARGE

Rosenworcel, Clyburn Need To Thump Trump

I can almost understand Republican Chairman Ajit Pai’s muted response to Trump’s tweeted threats against NBC’s TV station licenses, but not those of Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. If what they’ve said so far reflects their passion for protecting media from Trump at the FCC, the networks and their licensed stations may be in a little trouble. 

LAPD Opens Weinstein Assault Investigation

Los Angeles police detectives have interviewed a possible victim who recently reported she was sexually assaulted by film mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2013.

STATION ADVISORY

FCC Lifts Freeze On Unpacked TV Changes

The FCC announced late Thursday that the freeze that has been in place since April 2013 that prevents full-power and Class A TV stations from filing applications to expand their coverage areas will be lifted temporarily, likely before the end of this year. The lifting of the freeze allows stations that were not repacked following the Broadcast Incentive Auction to file minor modification applications to expand their signal for the first time in nearly five years.

FCC Taps Johnson As General Counsel

Thomas M. Johnson Jr., the former deputy solicitor general for the West Virginia attorney general, will advise the commission chairman, commissioners, and staff on legal matters.

Dish Network’s Top Lawyer Leaving

Stanton Dodge, Dish Network Corp.’s long-time corporate counsel, will be stepping down from the company after 20 years next week to become the top legal mind for online fantasy football giant Draft Kings.

Verizon To FCC: Time To Reform Retrans

Verizon feels that OTT streaming customers shouldn’t bear the brunt of a retransmission impasse between their internet provider — often a cable operator — and programmers, and wants the FCC to consider this in any reform of the retransmission consent process.

Trump: Media Make Up Stories About Him

President Trump accused the media of making up a majority of stories about his administration without providing evidence to back up his claim. 

Trump To Nominate Simons For FTC Chair

President Trump will nominate antitrust attorney Joseph Simons as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, moving to install a hand-picked leader at the consumer protection agency that’s been without a permanent head for 10 months. He also will nominate consumer advocate Rohit Chopra for the open Democratic seat.

New Online Political Ad Regs To Be Proposed

Lawmakers plan to introduce a bill Thursday that would impose new requirements on online platforms that run political ads. The measure, first floated by Senate Democrats Mark Warner (Virginia) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), has picked up Republican Sen. John McCain (Arizona) as a co-sponsor.

VidAngel Files For Bankruptcy Amid Legal Battle

FCC Puts 2-Week Hold On Sinclair-Tribune

The FCC is pausing its review of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media to allow more time for the filing of public comments. The FCC is more than halfway through its 180-day timeline for review of the merger, which would create a broadcasting giant with 223 TV stations serving 108 markets. The FCC’s Media Bureau said it is pausing the review for 15 days until Nov. 2.

STATION ADVISORY

Court Rejects Appeal Of Multilingual EAS

The U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday issued an order that denied the appeal of an FCC order that rejected a requirement that multilingual EAS alerts be provided in every market.

TVNEWSCHECK'S TV2020

Lazarus ‘Confident’ In NBC License Renewals

NBC Chairman of Broadcasting and Sports Mark Lazarus said the network isn’t worried about its broadcast licenses facing revocation following President Trump’s threatening tweets. “We feel very confident … that the FCC will support the First Amendment,” he said.

Pai: FCC Can’t Pull Licenses Over Content

The top U.S. communications regulator on Tuesday declined to criticize President Donald Trump’s attacks on broadcasters. In his first public appearance since Trump tweeted that Comcast’s NBC and other broadcasters should lose their licenses for reporting “fake news,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai instead noted that his agency could not do what the president wanted.