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FCC's O'Rielly: Media Ownership Limits Must Go

FCC Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly says that Congress has made it clear that the media marketplace is competitive, diverse and needs less regulation, not more. That means definitely no return of the JSA "ban" and scrapping other regs he says are outdated and unwarranted in that competitive marketplace

O'Rielly, in a blog post on the FCC website, was offering up his suggestions for what the FCC should do now that a federal court has instructed it to complete its review of media ownership rules ASAP.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had long signaled he would circulate an item addressing the overdue 2010 and 2014 congressionally mandated reviews by the end of this month, but the court decision vacating and remanding the FCC's tightening of joint sales agreements because it had been made before that review was completed, has turned up the heat.

In his blog post, O'Rielly said that it would be difficult to justify any further restrictions on media ownership.

While the court threw out the tightening of JSA rules—making most JSAs attributable as ownership interest—it did not preclude them and Wheeler has signaled the rules could return under better justification.

The court displayed its impatience with the FCC's delay of that review and the 12-year saga of the legal challenge to the rules. But it also said it was not ruling on the underlying JSA rule, only on the FCC's failure to justify it given that it had yet to review the underlying media ownership rules on which it was based via a quadrennial review.

But O'Rielly says that the JSA rule should not be resurrected under any circumstances. Both Republicans and Democrats have issues with the ban. Congress passed a bill extending the grandfather of existing JSAs for 10 years, and Republicans have proposed an amendment to a budget bill that would not allow the FCC to use any money to implement the rule were it reinstated.

In addition, O'Rielly wants the FCC to eliminate duopoly rules and cross-ownership prohibitions entirely and take a more liberal attitude toward waivers and grandfathering.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.