O'Rielly Defends FCC Against Sinclair-Bias Charges

FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly has come to the strong defense of FCC and Sinclair against allegations that the former is helping the latter.

In a blog post Friday (May 18), O'Rielly tried to dispel what he called the false narrative that "everything the Commission has done in the media space over the last 17 months has been to benefit one company, in this case Sinclair Broadcast Group."

He called that "misguided fantasy" perplexing to all the non-Sinclair stations that have benefited from FCC actions.

O'Rielly said it was time to put the assertions of an FCC Sinclair bias in the proper context, which he said was "a rhetorical tool designed to divert attention from opponents’ lack of substantive objections to the underlying [FCC] policies, combined with what seemingly appears to be an extreme personal dislike for the company itself."

Related: Democratic Sens. Seek FCC Freeze on Media Decisions

Those policies include reinstating the UHF discount, which made Sinclair's proposed purchase of Tribune possible, and approving a rollout of the ATSC 3.0 advanced TV transmission standard, which Sinclair was pitching and for which the company has a handful of patents. The FCC has come to no conclusion yet on whether the Tribune deal is in the public interest.

"The Commission’s actions under Chairman Pai’s leadership have been designed to reduce the labyrinth of outdated and costly media rules that no longer make sense today. This is vital in the current marketplace where television broadcasters are not competing solely amongst each other, but, also, with cable networks and major over-the-top platforms like Netflix and Amazon."

O'Rielly went point by point on issues attributed to favoritism toward Sinclair, providing alternative explanations, which he said he hoped would eliminate an notions for FCC favoritism toward the company.

After taking the issues point, but point, he said the FCC's actions "either didn’t help Sinclair in any capacity or was done to relieve the entire broadcast industry of a burden," with Sinclair aid either residual or unintentional.

It remains to be seen if the groups pushing hard for the Tribune deal's demise, or Hil  Dems convinced of a pro-Sinclair bias, will be persuaded.

John Eggerton

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.