O'Rielly: FCC Must Be Attentive to Broadcasters Auction Needs

FCC Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly plans to tell a Hudson Institute crowd in Washington Monday that a successful auction means that the commission needs to be guided by attentiveness to needs of broadcasters, including repacking and supplying sufficient info.

That is according to a prepared text of his remarks, provided to B&C.

O'Rielly said if the auction rules are complex or confusing, it will be tough to educate broadcasters about their options and encourage their participation. He also said the FCC must "remain attentive to the concerns of those broadcasters interested in being repacked...Simplicity and transparency are paramount to providing broadcasters the certainty needed to decide to participate or continue to serve their communities. Failure to do so may deter broadcaster participation or lead to legal challenges that could significantly delay the auction," he said.

He also opined on the "regulatory paralysis" that is the FCC's media ownership review. The commission did not complete its 2010 quadrennial review, and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has scrapped his predecessor's proposal in favor of a fresh look, almost certainly to be folded into the 2014 review.

"I am aware of the difficulties in completing this task and the corresponding legal challenges, including the 3rd Circuit’s ruling," O'Rielly says. "Nevertheless, we are required to comply with the statute."

O'Rielly also took the opportunity to outline his guiding regulatory principle: economic freedom. ("Stay strong for freedom" was O'Rielly's sign-off at his confirmation hearing and first FCC meeting.)

O'Rielly said he would use the following four-part test for any new regs: 1. Does the FCC have the authority; 2. Is there specific evidence of market failure; 3. Is the solution tailored to only relevant providers or services; and 4. Do the benefits outweigh the burdens.

O'Rielly appears to have gained his love of a free market at a young age, and by negative example. He cites a lemonade cart he and friends set up at a local tennis tournament, only to have their business "effectively snuffed out" by public officials because the park was owned by the city. He called it an example of "the lost opportunity that occurs when government restricts entrepreneurs."

He cited as another example the government's signal it would not allow Blockbuster and Hollywood Video to merge, after which both went bankrupt when faced with online competition from Netflix and others. "Who knows how much longer a combined entity could have lasted or if their joint resources may have allowed it to innovate and better adapt to the changing market," he said.

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.