FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly told the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday (June 16) that there continues to be a disconnect between the Department of Justice's approach to antitrust and the realities of the competitive video marketplace.
For example, when negotiating settlements with TV stations over sharing competitively sensitive ad information, Justice said the relevant competition was other broadcasters, not the wider world of video providers.
That came in his nomination hearing for a new, five-year, hitch on the commission during questioning by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
O'Rielly said he didn't think that either the FCC's rules or the Justice Department's approach reflected what was actually happening in the competitive marketplace.
He pointed out there are a number of video providers--OTT notably--that currently provide service under no regulation other than their "general practices," while legacy services like broadcast and cable are.
He said the dichotomy between the two is "incredibly problematic." He said he thought the FCC had done a good job at trying to rectify that, but said his interpretation has "run into a roadblock" at Justice, which "refuses to change its perspective on broadcasters and who they compete with.
He said it was very problematic that Justice believes that broadcasters only compete with other broadcasters in a select market at a select time for select advertising.
He said he was hoping to work with Justice on the issue, but said the pandemic intervened.
Sen. Blunt shared O'Rielly's view and rooted him on in his quest for a larger competitive market view of broadcasting.
"I think on ownership issues, and other issues, not recognizing how big the competitive field is is a big mistake as we move into the future and I hope you can continue to vigorously pursue that discussion.
Justice has recently signaled it would be open to looking into whether over-the-top should be put in broadcasters' competitive ad market.
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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.