U.S. Senate Commerce Committee: FCC Oversight Hearing Recap

Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee held a three-hour oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with all five Commissioners present. Below is a quick recap from the NAB of the broadcast-relevant issues that arose during the committee.

Set Top Box (STB):  Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) criticized the current FCC proposal. Specifically, Senator Nelson urged the agency to proceed with caution and to allow for appropriate time to reach industry consensus on the outstanding copyright and contractual concerns with the current proposal. Chairman Thune voiced concerns with previously ‘misleading’ statements from Chairman Wheeler insisting that MVPD programming contracts would be left alone from Commission scrutiny.

Cross-Ownership Rules:  Chairman Thune voiced concern with the Commission’s failure to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules in its recent Quadrennial Review order. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) expressed ongoing concern with the FCC’s treatment of both JSAs and SSAs in the recent order. In response to Senator Blunt, both Commissioner’s Pai and O’Reilly shared concerns with the Senator that they perceive these actions from the Commission as the first step to prohibiting future sharing arrangements.

ATSC 3.0:  Commissioner Ajit Pai urged the Commission to initiate a rulemaking on ATSC 3.0 before the end of the year.

Retransmission Consent:  Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), whose Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing and issued a comprehensive report earlier this year that was highly critical of MVPD billing practices, confirmed her intent to hold a successor hearing on the consumer impact of programming contracts.

AM Radio:  Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) expressed concern with AM radio power issues, and urged the Commission to work on measures to protect the medium.

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