Former FCC Chairman Mark Fowler on the commission ordering a Media Bureau formal hearing on the Standard General-Tegna merger: “The commission has applied the standard in an unprecedented, unconstitutional way by modifying the intended purpose of the statute to its customized purpose.”
The FCC’s decision to order the agency’s Media Bureau to hold a formal hearing on charges leveled against the Standard General-Tegna deal starkly illustrates the shockingly unconstitutional application of the “public interest, convenience and necessity” standard by a runaway commission. The commission has applied the standard in an unprecedented, unconstitutional way by modifying the intended purpose of the statute to its customized purpose. It puts a heavy butcher’s thumb on the normal functioning of a dynamic telecommunications marketplace.
Wandering in a legal stupor from established law into the underbrush, the commission stops transfer approval until Standard dons knee pads and pays homage: It must not increase retransmission consent fees; it must not decrease news staffs. (Shall we remind the commission here that the First Amendment is hostile to government regulation of speech, directly or indirectly?) Stretched out on the rack, Standard relents: It will not implement those bad things.
Nevertheless, after more than 300 days of inactivity, the agency kills this major business transaction by ordering a lengthy evidentiary hearing on its “concerns” — concerns which had been satisfied. The hearing is overkill on two simple issues that could have been addressed with conditions. The hearing assures that the transaction will fail to close by the contract closing date, triggering a $130 million breakup fee. What? The commission bureaucrats have toiled for 300 days and produced bureaucratic madness that they put people in asylums for. An observer must ask, what in the world is going on here?
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TV News Check | by Mark Fowler