Rep. Walden Vows Congressional Review of Crossownership

At NAB 'Pilot' forum, praise for broadcast innovation and promises to examine FCC actions

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technologyvowed that Congress is ready to overturn the FCC's recent ruling that prohibits broadcasters from buying newspapers in the same market.

"I believe their view of media ownership is about as outdated as... the brick (mobile) phone," Walden said in remarks in Washington on Sept. 7. "We will be introducing legislation soon to repeal the media crossownership rule. The time has come to recognize that it is completely unnecessary in the marketplace that exists today. If the FCC can't figure it out... we will help them do that with legislation to repeal the crossownership rule."

Walden also alluded to "issues at the FCC" and vowed "you're going to see some legislation," but he offered no details.

A spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee later told B&C that there is no specific timetable for such legislation. He said Walden ad-libbed those remarks during his address about technology developments to the National Association of Broadcasters' "Broadcast Innovation: Today, Tomorrow and Beyond" briefing at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

In his remarks, Walden chastised the FCC for not even being able to produce its quadrennial media ownership review on time.   

"They can barely get their four-year review [of media ownership] done, let alone figure out what's going on in the marketplace," Walden said.

Walden noted that the broadcast spectrum repack "has to be done thoughtfully and correctly." At the NAB event, Walden, a former broadcast owner, complimented the industry on its plunge into new technology.

"ATSC 3.0  is the future of this industry," Walden said. "Mobile is everything in our world. For broadcasters, being able to use the spectrum in this way is an important development."

He complimented broadcasters for "moving down this path without being forced." 

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the ranking member on the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, also said that Congress, via his committee, will monitor the spectrum auction.

Also citing the ATSC 3.0 development, Schatz observed, "NextGen TV... could allow each station limitless capabilities to reach consumers in new ways. I'm glad that the FCC issued a Public Notice on this matter. I expect the Commerce Committee will be paying very close attention to it" to ensure that "broadcasters have the resources required to repack and update their equipment... in order for consumers and investors to benefit from these valuable spectrum resources."

The NAB program was primarily aimed at Congressional staffers, offering demonstrations and panel discussions about broadcast technology, including NextGen radio, streaming, ATSC 3.0 and drones. The event served to unveil the newly renamed "Pilot" initiative, formerly called "NAB Labs," to support new technology for broadcasters.

"One of my passions since coming to NAB [has been] to come up with new stuff" so that broadcasting can do "what our friends in telecommunications do on Capitol Hill," said NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith when he introduced the program. "Everyone wants our content and everyone wants our spectrum, but no one wants to do what we do: local, live and for free."