FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Takes Victory Lap Over Congress’ Failure To Revive Net Neutrality Rules

That means the clock has run out for sitting lawmakers to reverse the FCC's rules.
But it failed to come up for a vote in GOP-dominated House of Representatives, where legislators had until the end of the lame duck session to take action. The Congressional Review Act resolution, which would have nullified the new FCC rules, passed the Senate with support from three Republicans.
Congressional Democrats spearheaded an effort to overturn the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which wiped earlier bans on blocking or slowing internet traffic or paying for faster delivery.
House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation," Pai said in a statement. "They did the right thing — especially considering the positive results for American consumers since the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order." “I’m pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S.
Pai cited statistics claiming that the FCC's lighter regulatory approach has led to increased broadband speeds, and a more rapid expansion of fiber to homes than in any previous year.
Greer said net neutrality advocates plan to continue fighting the battle.
"We'll keep fighting in the states, in the courts, and in Congress. It's only a matter of time before net neutrality is the law of the land again."” /> "The Internet freedom movement is stronger than it's ever been as we head into 2019," Greer said in an email to Deadline.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai took a victory lap today as he celebrated the Congress' failure to revive Obama-era net neutrality rules.
"His claim that broadband speeds are up is the tech policy equivalent of 'It's snowing outside, therefore climate change is a hoax.'" "As usual, Ajit Pai is full of it," said Evan Greer of the advocacy group Fight for the Future, which fought to retain the rules.

Telemundo Fined By FCC For Violating Children’s Television Act Of 1990

"In the end, I am confident that we can revise our rules to provide necessary and appropriate flexibility for local broadcasters while preserving and/or improving the experience of those watching children’s programming."” /> "The issues generating this item – preemption for live, high-demand programming and overly burdensome reporting requirements – are exactly those that justify the commission’s review of its current children’s television programming rules," O'Rielly said in a statement.
That action was deemed out of bounds under the federal Children's Television Act of 1990.
The FCC said it would approve applications from Telemundo for local station license renewals, provided that the company pays the fine and abides by the terms of a consent decree mandating compliance with the CTA. The initial probe into the alleged violations stemmed from license renewals sought more than a decade ago.
Children are not only served only by a handful of broadcast programs, but by always-on streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix. FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly approved of the action, but reiterated concerns about the commission's approach to children's programming. As several commissioners have done in recent years, O'Rielly has recommended an update to the FCC's procedures given the vastly more complex and crowded competitive landscape it is trying to regulate.
Telemundo parent Comcast has agreed to pay $495,000 as a result of an investigation by the FCC, which found that some of the Hispanic broadcaster's local stations had pre-empted children's programming in favor of sports.
"While the Commission does provide network-affiliated stations flexibility to reschedule preempted children’s television programming and still have it counted" toward legal minimums, the FCC said, "such programming must be rescheduled in order for it to be so counted and here that did not occur in certain instances."

Nexstar Buys Tribune For $4.1B, Becoming No. 1 Local TV Group – Report

Last summer, Sinclair's long-pending deal to acquire Tribune for $3.9 billion unraveled in the face of heightened regulatory scrutiny from the FCC. Sinclair and Tribune then filed dueling lawsuits over the merger's meltdown, with Tribune seeking $1 billion in damages.
households, the cap is under review by the FCC, with many station groups arguing that it should not exist at all given that local TV is competing with tech giants for viewers' attention. Currently set at 39% of U.S. Appearing at the NAB Show New York in October, Nexstar CEO Perry Sook said, Sook said the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon “are unfettered with no restrictions to reach 100% of the country.”
While it was overshadowed by the Sinclair-Tribune merger, another major tie-up has combined Gray Television and Raycom Media. Fox, whose profitable station portfolio will be one of the linchpins of the company after most of it is sold off to Disney in the coming weeks, is also seen as being an active dealmaker on the station front in 2019.
After emerging from bankruptcy in late 2012, Tribune spun off its newspaper assets in 2014. Peter Liguori, a well-established TV executive known for his role in creating FX, ran the company until 2017, passing the baton to current CEO Peter Kern.
Moderate voices fear the elimination of the cap could prompt the same kind of consolidation that effectively killed the radio business. Many observers expect the cap to be relaxed to about 50% of households, but the Republican majority on the FCC leaves open the possibility the cap will be eliminated.
The merger came just months into the presidency of Donald Trump, who has close ties to Sinclair and has vowed to deregulate many industry sectors. The massive scope of Sinclair's 2017 deal to acquire Tribune prompted debate in the regulatory and TV sectors about the longtime limit on ownership of stations.
When contacted by Deadline, a Tribune spokesman declined comment, describing the Reuters report as "speculation." Nexstar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nextar outbid private equity firm Apollo Global Management with an all-cash offer that values Tribune at around $46.50 per share, according to Reuters. Tribune shares ended trading on Friday at $40.26.
Nexstar may not face quite the same backlash as Sinclair, given it is less of a lightning rod for criticism and keeps a lower profile, but when the numbers come out activists will likely still mobilize.
The acquisition, first reported by Reuters, would vault Nexstar ahead of Sinclair Broadcast Group to make it the top local TV station owner in the U.S.
The transaction is expected to be formally announced by Monday, Reuters said.” />
It also has WGN America, which is carried in some 77 million homes, and a stake in the Food Network. Chicago-based Tribune has 42 local TV stations — notably in major markets like New York, LA and Chicago — with reach to about 50 million households.
Nexstar Media Group, which has grown in just 20 years from a single Pennsylvania radio station into a local TV colossus, has reportedly struck a deal to acquire Tribune Media for about $4.1 billion.
Although its market capitalization is $3.8 billion, it has arranged for debt financing through several banks, the Reuters report said. Texas-based Nexstar owns, operates, programs or provides sales and other services to 171 television stations around the country.

WGA West Urges Appeal Of FCC Net Neutrality Ruling As California Assembly Poised To Vote On State Bill

"The decision to abandon those protections, which had been overwhelmingly supported by the public and upheld in court, was factually and legally unsound. Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the FCC’s abdication of its responsibilities to protect competition and ensure a free and open Internet.” “Last year, the Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman [Ajit] Pai repealed open Internet protections, leaving powerful Internet providers free to decide what content reaches viewers and how, harming content creators and consumers alike," the WGAW statement reads. The Writers Guild of America West has joined fellow intervenors in filing a brief in the D.C.
As the California Assembly prepares to vote on the state's net neutrality bill, the WGA West is advocating for a federal appeal of the FCC's December ruling on the touchy subject.
The move comes as the California Assembly prepares to vote on SB 822 (read the bill here and a digest below), which would "prohibit fixed and mobile Internet service providers … that provide broadband Internet access service, as defined, from engaging in specified actions concerning the treatment of Internet traffic." A vote on the legislation, which the WGA also supports, is expected as early as today in Sacramento.
This bill would enact the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018. It would also prohibit fixed and mobile Internet service providers from offering or providing services other than broadband Internet access service that are delivered over the same last-mile connection as the broadband Internet access service, if those services have the purpose or effect of evading the above-described prohibitions or negatively affect the performance of broadband Internet access service.” /> This act would prohibit fixed and mobile Internet service providers, as defined, that provide broadband Internet access service, as defined, from engaging in specified actions concerning the treatment of Internet traffic. The act would prohibit, among other things, blocking lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, impairing or degrading lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service, or use of a nonharmful device, and specified practices relating to zero-rating, as defined.
Here is the digest of California's net neutrality bill:
It’s the most authentic attempt to restore the essential protections that the FCC repealed. And with firefighters and emergency workers sounding the alarm about the very real dangers of allowing ISPs to operate without oversight, passing it should be a no-brainer for any state legislator that wants to keep their job.” Said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, which is advocating for a repeal of the federal net neutrality law: "SB 822 is the best damn net neutrality bill in the country.

FCC Chairman Says Inspector General Finds No Favoritism In Review Of Sinclair-Tribune Merger

The combination would have brought Sinclair — with its must-run packages of commentary — to 72% of American households.” />
Pai said he merely called on the FCC to update its outdated media ownership regulations to match the realities of the modern marketplace. He said he has long viewed allegations of favoritism as "absurd," adding, "today’s report proves that Capitol Hill Democrats’ politically-motivated accusations were entirely baseless.”
“I’m pleased that the Office of Inspector General has concluded that there was ‘no evidence, nor even the suggestion, of impropriety, unscrupulous behavior, favoritism towards Sinclair, or lack of impartiality related to the proposed Sinclair-Tribune Merger,'" Pai said in a statement.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the inspector general found no evidence of impropriety or favoritism in the agency's review of the proposed Sinclair-Tribune Merger.
The full document notes that after conducting a comprehensive investigation that included reviewing emails, phone records and visitor logs, the inspector general found no evidence of impropriety, favoritism towards Sinclair.
Reps. Frank Pallone and Elijah Cummings cited recent FCC decisions around local ownership that would benefit Sinclair, which had reportedly struck a deal to afford favorable coverage of President Donald Trump.
Hunt singles out Pai's recommendation to send the deal through a lengthy administrative review process, citing  "serious concerns" about the merger."  The inspector general called that decision —widely viewed as a deal-killer — as "evidence that the Chairman did not engage in any favoritism toward Sinclair."
"When asked specific questions as to whether any actions that ultimately may have inured to Sinclair’s benefit were influenced by any promises or threats either by Sinclair or any other entity, including President Trump or the Executive Office of President, the Chairman unequivocally replied in the negative," Inspector General David Hunt wrote, adding, "We have found no evidence that would lead us to question these responses."
Trump criticized the decision as "Sad and unfair."
Two House Democrats had asked the FCC's inspector general to examine whether Pai was biased in favor of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which was seeking regulatory approval of a $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune.

Tribune Execs “Assessing All Of Our Options” After FCC-Sinclair Jolt

Thanks to the great work of our employees, we are having a strong year despite the significant distraction caused by our work on the transaction and, thus, are well-positioned to continue maximizing value for our shareholders going forward." "We will be greatly disappointed if the transaction cannot be completed, but will rededicate our efforts to running our businesses and optimizing assets.
Following our review of the Order, we issued a statement via the attached press release.
Here is his email in full: In an email to employees, Tribune CEO Peter Kern urged the staff to try to stay focused on day-to-day business.
Peter” />
We’ll continue to keep you updated. As I said to you on Tuesday, thanks to your great work, we are having a strong year. Thank you again for your efforts.
"We are currently evaluating its implications and assessing all of our options in light of today's developments. "Tribune Media has now had the opportunity to review the FCC's troubling Hearing Designation Order," Tribune's statement said.
Tribune Media, the owner of local TV stations that has been slated to become part of Sinclair Broadcast Group in a $3.9 billion deal, said it is "evaluating" the implications of the FCC's "troubling" new scrutiny of the merger.
The commission's order, released earlier today, asks an administrative law judge to rule on the matter — historically not a development that a transaction survives intact. The FCC voted 4-0 yesterday to put the review of the deal on hold given Chairman Ajit Pai's "serious concerns" about the deals Sinclair had in place to divest of stations in Chicago and Texas.
The Order formally places certain issues before the FCC’s administrative law judge for adjudication. Earlier today, the FCC filed a Hearing Designation Order regarding the pending acquisition of our company by Sinclair Broadcasting. In the meantime, we are assessing all of our options. While that process moves forward, our transaction remains on hold.

Sinclair And Tribune Stocks Plunge After FCC Flies Merger Caution Flag

After the Federal Communications Commission reversed its longstanding pattern of making moves that are friendly to Sinclair Broadcast Group and flagged "serious concerns" about its pending merger with Tribune Media, the stocks in both companies took double-digit dives.
Added Jeff Blum, senior vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs for Dish Network: “We are pleased that Chairman Pai has circulated an order designating the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger for a hearing. It is a prudent step to closely scrutinize whether the proposed merger serves the public interest and consumers.”” />
(The CWA is one of multiple entities which filed a petition earlier this year seeking to block the deal.) "It is clear that the parties should abandon their proposed merger," said the Communications Workers of America in a statement. Several companies, Democratic politicians and trade groups piled on after Pai's comments.
Tribune Media, which resumed trading after a late-morning halt, closed at $32.11, down 17% on volume that was more than 10 times normal levels. Sinclair shares tumbled nearly 12%, ending at $29.10 on five times the usual volume.
households, well north of the traditional 39% ownership cap. While some deals have never survived these kinds of reviews, a Reuters report said the order will include a timeline during which the review must be completed. Pai said he would circulate a draft order for a vote by the five commissioners on the Republican-controlled body. Sinclair first proposed the transaction in the spring of 2017, and initially it seemed certain to be approved despite potentially extending the company's reach to more than 70% of U.S. The order would recommend that the matter be referred for administrative review. Citing changes in the media landscape, the FCC has been reassessing the 39% cap and has signaled a possible easing or even an outright elimination of it.
Sinclair said in April that it would divest 23 television stations to win approval, but noted in regulatory filings that although it planned to sell the Chicago and New York stations to third parties it would enter into agreements to run them. FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who has scoffed at the notion he treats Sinclair with kid gloves, stunned many media observers by saying the sidecar deals would effectively preserve control of the stations for Sinclair (already a massive power in local TV) "in practice, even if not in name." Those "sidecar" deals have become increasingly common in the local TV sector, but have drawn scrutiny.

AT&T CFO John Stephens: Telco Bullish On Time Warner Deal, DirecTV Now Growth

Asked about the margins of the DirecTV Now business, whose economics are markedly different from those of the company's traditional cable and satellite distribution systems, he compared them to the company's Cricket prepaid wireless unit. Stephens reminded the Wall Street audience that AT&T had recorded record profit margins in the third quarter.
Yes." But will it get to very acceptable ROICs (returns on invested capital)? "No. "Will it reach the legacy levels?" he asked, meaning satellite and cable systems.
AT&T CFO John Stephens began his keynote session at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference with the obvious: He reiterated the telco's optimism about its legal fight with the U.S. Department of Justice over the pending takeover of Time Warner.
"The customer should view it as no change," Stephens said of the FCC decision. The main impact on the business side, he said, was that "the vote will bring back the opportunity for more investment."” />
One significant one was the quick start out of the gate and remaining upside for DirecTV Now, the company's internet-delivered skinny bundle TV service. With legal teams prepping for that epic court case, the UBS session quickly moved into other areas. The company said earlier today that the offering has reached 1 million subscribers.
"We continue to feel strongly about the consumer benefits of the deal," Stephens said.
(Opponents of the rule change say it will usher in an era of gatekeepers like AT&T or other broadband providers picking and choosing which online content customers can visit for free.) He said AT&T "does not believe in blocking" access to certain websites or limiting internet access. 14 vote on a proposal to roll-back net neutrality rules, Stephens toed the same line as other execs on the same stage during the conference. Asked about the FCC's Dec.
A new iteration of the service planned for 2018 will also offer, in addition to customer enhancements like 4K picture and cloud-based DVR, but also more potent advertising tools, which AT&T expects to open up new revenue opportunities.
Unlike traditional distribution, he said, "DirecTV Now requires virtually no cap-ex" — meaning spending on infrastructure that is usually a dominant line-item for operators — " and we don't have to send a truck, pull out a ladder, climb the ladder and set up a dish on the side of your house."

Korn – We Care a Lot Lyrics

[Verse 1: Jonathan Davis]
(We Care a Lot) 3×
About disasters, fires, floods and killer bees
About the NASA’s and the falling, and the seas!
About starvation and the food that Live Aid bought
(We Care a Lot) about disease, baby Rock, Hudson, rock, what!

[Chorus 1: Jonathan Davis]
(Whoa-oh)
Oh, It’s a dirty job but, someone’s gotta do it! (2×) (We Care a Lot!)

[Verse 2: Jonathan Davis]
(We Care a Lot) (2×)
About the gamblers, and the pushers, and the freaks!
About the smack, and crack, and wack that hit the streets!
(We Care a Lot) About the welfare of all you boys and girls!
(We Care a Lot) About you people, cause we’re out to save the world, what!

[Chorus 2: Jonathan Davis]
Oh, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! (Whoa-oh)
Oh, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! (4×)

[Verse 3: Jonathan Davis]
(We Care a Lot) About the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines!
(We Care a Lot) About the NY, SF, and LAPD!
(We Care a Lot) About you people!
(We Care a Lot) About your guns!
(We Care a Lot) About the wars we’re fighting. Gee, that looks like fun!
(We Care a Lot) About our free speech, and not the FCC’s
(We Care a Lot) About tide we made with Beatles on MTV!
(We Care a Lot) About the little things, the bigger things we top!
(We Care a Lot) About you people, yeah you bet we care a lot, what!

[Chorus 3: Jonathan Davis]
Oh, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! (Whoa-oh)
Oh, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! (4×)
Oh, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! (4×)