New Fox Corp. D.C. Team Set

STELAR renewal will be priority for O'Brien-led group
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U.S. Capitol

Danny O'Brien, who heads up Fox's lobbying arm in D.C., has hit the ground running on day one of the new Fox Corp. (March 20).

O'Brien, once a top aide to former Vice President and likely future presidential candidate Joe Biden, was brought on in October as EVP and head of government relations for the new Fox Corp.

He has been ramping up the operation for the past four months, including for what will be a months-long battle with cable operators over the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) act.

The tandem of Kris Jones, who has lobbied for Fox and Murdoch properties for the past eight years, and Jamie Gillespie, who joined in 2017, will continue to handle day-to-day lobbying duties of Congress, providing continuity as Fox pushes for the sunset of that law, according to lobbying disclosure forms.

Joe Di Scipio, who formerly handled FCC matters for Fox TV Stations, will handle FCC lobbying duties for Fox Corp. as senior VP. Jared Sher, who had been in that post, will be exiting.

All three report to O'Brien.

Fox has also retained a laundry list of outside lobbying firms with experience on both sides of the aisle, including CGCN Group, The Fritts Group (former National Association of Broadcasters President Eddie Fritts), EFB Advocacy, The Cormac Group, Glover Park, The O Team (former NBC exec Bob Okun), and Wiley Rein. Kathy Ramsey, formerly lead lobbyist at 21st Century Fox, will be a strategic advisor for the new Fox.

Fox's top legislative priority in D.C. will be the expiration at the end of the year of the STELAR Act, according to someone familiar with the game plan.

STELAR, which was last renewed 2014, authorizes the satellite compulsory distant signal license for five years, but sunsets unless renewed. Fox and other broadcasters say it is time for that sun to go down. They see it as an ongoing vehicle for cable ops to undercut broadcast retrans revenues.

Last time around (in 2014), the act was indeed a vehicle for some cable-friendly changes to retrans, including renewing the FCC's enforcement of good faith retrans negotiations and extending the commission's prohibition on coordinated retrans negotiations among noncommonly owned TV stations in a market from the top four to all stations.

This time around cable ops will likely be looking to add prohibitions on blackouts and mandatory third-party arbitration of disputes.

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