O’Rielly Wants to Eliminate ‘Zombie Proceedings’

WASHINGTON—The FCC has its own bit of a zombie outbreak, according to Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. These undead pieces of regulation should be “killed off” as part of the FCC’s efforts to modernize its media regulation rules.

O’Rielly’s description came during a speech that he gave recently to the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association at its Sound Bites 2019 event. The “Zombie Proceedings,” as the commissioner called them, are rulemakings that were started under previous commissions but have not moved forward, simply remaining pending.

One of the specific zombies he spoke about included an outstanding proposal from when Tom Wheeler was commissioner that would classify an OTT platform as an MVPD. The proposal would have defined OTTs as MVPDs for the purpose of program access and carriage rules, providing FCC-enforced access to vertically integrated programming for OTTs to boost their ability to compete with cable and satellite.

With MVPD status, OTTs would secure access to TV stations through must-carry and retrans rules, but they would also be subject to program carriage and access requirements. Broadcasters and the NCTA-The Internet & Television Association voiced concerns about those rules, and ultimately no action was taken by Wheeler.

The FCC did determine that OTTs are competitors to MVPDs after ruling on a petition from Charter Communications over the presence of AT&T TV Now in specific markets.

Other specific examples of these zombie proceedings O’Rielly offered during his speech were a proposed repeal of network nonduplication and syndicated exclusivity programming rules; the set-top box rules proposal; the proposal on sponsorship ID and embedded advertising rules; and remaining pieces of enhanced disclosures proceeding, including Form 355. O’Rielly suggested that all of these proposals, as well as others he did not mention, should be “killed off.”

During O’Rielly’s speech, he also commented on the start of the new KidVid rules that were established over the summer, as well as other media modernization issues like supplementing Issues Programming List and adjusting Class A stations schedule for IPL submissions.

The FCC has released the full transcript of O’Rielly’s speech.