FCC's apparent favoring of Sinclair a 'misguided fantasy,' O'Rielly says

O'Rielly, FCC Comissioner Image: FCC
FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly (FCC)

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is challenging the notion that the FCC’s actions over the past year or so have favored Sinclair, calling the idea a “misguided fantasy.”

In a blog post, O’Rielly sought to debunk the thought that only Sinclair would benefit from the deployment of ATSC 3.0 next-gen TV technologies, or that all rule changes enacted by the FCC for the media space have been done with Sinclair’s interests in mind.

“This misguided fantasy is perplexing to other broadcast stations across the country that have seen real benefits to our actions. That is why I believe it is time to call these assertions for what they truly are: a rhetorical tool designed to divert attention from opponents’ lack of substantive objections to the underlying policies, combined with what seemingly appears to be an extreme personal dislike for the company itself,” O’Rielly wrote.

From there, O’Rielly outlines specific rule changes and revisions made by the FCC in the past year and attempts to point out how they benefit others besides Sinclair, and perhaps don’t benefit Sinclair at all.

RELATED: FCC sued over media ownership rules that apparently favor Sinclair

He said the elimination of the Main Studio Rule was largely designed to benefit radio station owners, pointing out that Sinclair only owns four radio stations and doesn’t intend to buy any more. He said the reinstatement of the UHF Discount was just a corrective action since the FCC didn’t have the authority to eliminate the discount in 2016.

O’Rielly also said that the elimination of the newspaper/broadcast and radio/television cross-ownership rules don’t benefit Sinclair. O’Rielly also defended his position on the national ownership cap.

“I have been abundantly clear that I don’t believe the Commission has been authorized by Congress via statute to change the so-called national ownership cap. Ironically, my position aligns with the view previously expressed by Sinclair, which has since changed,” O’Rielly wrote.

He said that the FCC’s current rulemaking process could change the levels or calculation process for the national ownership cap but that it would likely be challenged in court.

“Despite lending my support to get to court review, I suspect my words and position will be used to undermine the Commission’s future case.  Accordingly, it should be impossible for anyone to suggest with a straight face that this item represents some pro-Sinclair agenda,” O’Rielly wrote.

As Sinclair continues to pursue its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, the FCC is still reviewing the deal. But while it hasn’t officially OK’d the merger, the FCC has taken heat for a series of rule changes that some allege paved the way for Sinclair to buy Tribune.

Earlier this year, The Free Press, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America and the United Church of Christ filed sued against the FCC, alleging the agency through its rule changes has “failed to consider the impact of its decisions on localism, diversity and competition in broadcast ownership.”

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