In a letter to the General Accountability Office, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, citing Fox O&O WWOR New York, which is licensed to their state, claim the FCC hasn’t held it to its “special obligations to serve New Jersey.” In their letter, the senators ask a series of questions that amount to a call for specific and concrete license renewal criteria, which the broadcasting industry has long opposed.
House Democratic leaders Frank Palone (D-N.J.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) want the General Accountability Office to look into the impact of various local broadcaster sharing agreements on competition, localism and diversity. Hill Dems have been critical of Sinclair’s inclusion of such agreements with stations it is spinning off to secure government approval of its efforts to buy Tribune TV stations, suggesting it is using the agreements to continue to control stations it is supposed to be divesting.
A new GAO report found massive fraud within the FCC’s Lifeline program, which subsidizes cellular and broadband service for low-income Americans. The agency’s three-year audit of the Lifeline program (June 2014 to May 2017), found that more than one-third (36%) of Lifeline customers could not be confirmed as actually eligible for the program. The GAO also found that $1.2 million annually went to fictitious identities or recipients who were dead.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the effects of eliminating the FCC’s network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules would “depend on other federal actions and industry response.” Although the GAO report is far from conclusive, it serves as a strong reminder that the commission’s exclusivity rules are part of an intricate regulatory structure in existence of decades. Removing one piece will necessarily have collateral effects that are difficult to predict or quantify.
Reps. Joe Barton and Anna Eshoo especially want to know how many LPTVs and translators — which don’t have the same protections that full-power stations have in the auctions — will be able to continue operating on replacement channels after the FCC auction’s repacking of the TV band.
The Government Accountability Office dinged the FCC in report released Monday for failing to collect enough information to judge TV station joint-operation deals. The commission has “not collected data or completed a review to understand how broadcaster agreements are being used and the potential impacts with respect to its media ownership rules and the corresponding policy goals of competition, localism and diversity,” the GAO says.
In his call for a GAO study, the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman says joint sales and shared services agreements that allow a broadcast group to operate multiple stations in markets where the FCC rules say it may own just one might “artificially serve to inflate retransmission consent rates … and drive up subscription fees for pay television consumers.”
The General Accountability Office on Thursday urged the FCC to revise standards for disclosing TV product sponsorships whether for product placement, video news releases or political advertising. Pointing to one FCC guidance citing how broadcasters should treat the use of “expensive kinescope prints” provided by sponsors in putting together a news story, the GAO said the current standards are stuck in a time warp.
Federal lawmakers have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether broadcasters have been adequately disclosing potential conflicts when they air advocacy ads promoting issues in which they have financial stakes.