The Federal Communications Commission continued deregulation efforts under the stewardship of the panel’s new Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, relaxing two key rules Thursday affecting TV stations and telecom companies.
Both moves were approved on 2-1 votes by the currently undermanned panel, with Pai and the panel’s other Republican, Michael O’Rielly, voting to approve over the dissenting vote of Mignon Clyburn, currently the FCC’s only Democratic commissioner.
The agency’s approval of Pai’s order on TV station ownership “changes the way those stations calculate their footprints. In effect, Pai’s move makes it easier for TV station groups to grow without tripping a federal cap on their size — and as a result, it could set off another wave of industry consolidation,” Recode reports.
“In strongly opposing that proposal, Clyburn cited comments from CBS Corporation CEO Leslie Moonves, who signaled earlier this year that he could ‘buy some more stations’ if such a cap was lifted,” Recode notes. “She also highlighted recent comments by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which told the FCC something similar in a private meeting. Democrats in Congress have raised their fears with the commission that more consolidation could harm consumers.”
As we reported separately, Sinclair was quick to take advantage of the relaxed rule, announcing today the acquisition of 14 TV stations from Bonten Media in a deal that until the rule change would have put Sinclair over the cap.
In a separate ruling, “Pai successfully removed restrictions on the likes of AT&T and Verizon, which now have more leeway to raise prices for businesses that rely on dedicated links to their networks,” Record adds. “That includes hospitals and schools, for example, which tap this so-called ‘business data services’ market — a different pipe than, say, your usual home Internet — to transmit large quantities of data quickly and reliably.”