Editorial: Dereg Direction

It appears that the deregulatory Republican rather than the populist progressive hell-raiser is guiding President- elect Donald Trump’s view of the role of the FCC. That would be good news for media companies not looking for a Republican president to start blowing up deals or hammering industry. With the addition last week of Roslyn Layton to the FCC transition team, there is now a trio of deregulatory- minded folks probably not interested in unwinding media mergers and definitely looking for the FCC to take a lighter hand.

Transition team players Layton, Jeff Eisenach and Mark Jamison are all opponents of the FCC’s reclassification of Title II. Layton is also a fan of zero rating plans as pro-consumer and was a big critic of the FCC’s broadband privacy rulemaking, which should endear her to internet service providers (ISPs) making those same arguments.

All of the team members share the philosophy that the current FCC has been over-regulatory and over-politicized. And while the Tom Wheeler FCC, and the Julius Genachowski FCC before him, got the knock of being Google-centric when it came to issues that favored the search giants over ISPs, that worm could be turning.

Layton, for example, wrote in a blog post backing free data and zero rating plans that one reason they were being looked at critically by the FCC was they were being pushed by Google and others with “a vested interest in limiting these programs in order to maintain a stronghold on the key battleground of mobile advertising on smartphones, the fastest-growing category of advertising.”

The transition team’s recommendation for the new FCC chief will likely share many of those sentiments, particularly if the pick is one of them.

While the chair could come from Congress, either a member or a top telecom staffer, or out of left field if, say, VP-elect Mike Pence has someone back in Indiana he would like for the post, Tom Wheeler was on the telecom transition team for President Obama. So there is precedent for the picker becoming the picked.

Whoever does get the big chair should train their deregulatory sights first on easy targets for which there is bipartisan support. Exhibit A would be loosening the broadcast cross-ownership regulations so TV stations can figure that into their post-incentive auction calculations.