By: Curtis LeGeyt, EVP, Government Relations
National Association of Broadcasters
I wanted to let you all know that the Senate went out of session for the year early Saturday morning (12/10), and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was not reconfirmed. This means her term will expire at the end of 2016 and we will begin the next Administration with either a 2-2 or 2-1 FCC, depending on the date on which Chairman Wheeler steps down (Editor note: Chairman Wheeler announced he is leaving the agency January 20, 2017. Details here). This is noteworthy, since a 2-1 FCC would allow a Republican Interim-Chairman to begin advancing an agenda at the outset of the new year before new commissioners are nominated/confirmed.
On the legislative front, two noteworthy updates occurred before the Congress wrapped up its work this week:
First, Senators Moran (R-KS), Schatz (D-HI), Fisher (R-NE), Blumenthal (D-CT), Blunt (R-MO) and Udall (D-NM) circulated bipartisan draft legislation to the Senate Commerce Committee aimed to address any insufficiency in the FCC’s repacking budget and timeframe should either prove insufficient at the conclusion of the auction. As you are aware, the FCC is currently limited to a $1.75 billion relocation fund and 39-month timeline to successfully repack the broadcast band following the incentive auction, limitations that NAB is concerned will prove inadequate.
Circulation of this legislation in advance of the new Congress intends to signal both that this legislation should be at the top of the Commerce Committee’s agenda next year once the auction concludes and the scope of the repack is known, and that the issue is a bipartisan one. This bill is a companion to the legislation circulated by House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) earlier this year.
Second, incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR2), Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY3) and five other bipartisan House E&C members introduced legislation this week to repeal the FCC’s Broadcast-Newspaper Cross-Ownership ban. The legislation intends to signal to both the FCC and the next Congress that there is bipartisan support on this issue, and helps set the stage for the FCC and Congress to address the ownership rules next year.