Rep. Walden: FCC's Wheeler Is Putting JSA Cart Before Quaddrenial Horse

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will use his opening statement at the STELA hearing today (March 12) to defend two proposals that are drawing criticism from Democrats--getting rid of the prohibition on integrated set-tops and preventing the FCC from making TV JSA's attributable under ownership regs unless that is part of an item resolving the 2010 quadrennial media ownership review to Congress that is, as its name suggests, long overdue.

That is according to Walden's opening statement for the STELA hearing, which is on draft legislation reauthorizing the blanket license that, principally, allows satellite operators to deliver distant affiliated network TV signals. It also reauthorizes the FCC's authority to mandate good faith retransmission consent negotiations.

He said those and other provisions in the draft came after multiple hearings, a roundtable discussion on the integration ban, and "incredible" numbers of meetings on both sides of the aisle. He points out that broadcasters, cable operators and satellite operators support the draft.

In defense of getting rid of the integration ban, Walden says: "It’s important to note that this provision still requires cable companies to support CableCARDs, it just gets an outdated, expensive, energy consuming provision of little or no value off the FCC’s books. We believe in spurring innovation, not holding it back."

He points out that the draft prevents coordinated retrans among two or more independent stations in a market, including ones with joint sales agreements, shared services agreements, or other sharing agreements, which he says strikes the right balance.

As for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to vote March 31 on making JSA's over 15% of ad sales attributable, but only launching the process of resolving a combined 2010 and 2014 quadrennial review: "Unfortunately, Chairman Wheeler is putting the JSA cart before the media ownership horse," says Walden. "The FCC is required by law to review the entire set of media ownership laws every four years. It has consistently failed to follow the law. If a licensee of the FCC failed to follow the law, it would lose its license or suffer some severe penalty."  

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.