Gilt on the frame or rouge on the corpse? It's hard to tell exactly what is motivating the flurry of anti-broadcaster activity coming from the FCC chairman's office.
Chairman Kennard, whose term ends in June but whose departure could come as early as January, read the broadcast industry the riot act last week, calling members irresponsible "spectrum squatters" and saying he would call on Congress to crack down on them on several fronts. We can't help but see some political method in the chairman's madness (we mean 'madness' as a play on anger here, not a suggestion of compromised faculties). Baseball games supplanted presidential debates on networks in the two previous elections without calls of "off with their heads" from the FCC. Not so this year. The Fairness Doctrine is nailed onto the Democratic party plank and the chairman unrecuses himself on the personal attack/political editorializing corollaries and there is talk at the commission of reviving the Doctrine and those rules as part of new digital TV public-interest obligations. There is more, but you get the idea.
Our hunch is that the charges that the allocation of digital spectrum was a $70 billion giveaway, rather than an in-kind exchange for analog spectrum, or that not enough tribute was exacted from broadcasters for a leveling of the regulatory playing field have rankled the chairman's Democratic friends and prompted him to start making noise while people will still listen. Fortunately, our guess is that most congressmen are more concerned with getting home and getting re-elected than in joining Kennard's effort to reshape/salvage/establish his legacy.