Pai Bears Gifts for Broadcasters


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In his first speech at the spring NAB show as chairman, Ajit Pai said Tuesday that after four years of attending the show and presenting in smaller panel discussions, speaking on the big stage brought more notice and pressure. But he delivered in a big way.

Pai intends to do away with unnecessary and outdated broadcast regulations, noting that many of the media rules are “decades old.” He circulated a Public Notice to his colleagues yesterday to begin a review and plans to tee that up in time for a vote at the May 18 public meeting.

“Given the realities of today’s media marketplace, we need to see which rules are still necessary and which should be relaxed or repealed,” Pai said to vigorous attendee applause. “That review will also include exploring whether certain rules should be changed to provide regulatory relief to small businesses.” The proceeding will apply to cable and broadcast satellite rules as well.  

One rule destined to hit the chopping block at that meeting is the requirement that television and radio broadcasters maintain a main studio in within their city of license so that members of the public may communicate with the station. Broadcasters say the requirement costs them critical funding to build, maintain and operate these facilities — funding that could be used elsewhere. Further, TV broadcasters have already transitioned to an online public file, and radio broadcasters will do so by early 2018.

“An online public file is much more accessible to the American people than one sitting in a main studio,” said Pai, adding the public is now more likely to contact their location station using email, social media or a phone call. Pai says a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to eliminate the rule is planned for a vote on May 18.

He also promised the agency will conduct a comprehensive review of media ownership rules with an eye towards modifying or eliminating outdated and/or unnecessary requirements. AM radio is near and dear to his heart; growing up in rural Kansas he listened to a transistor radio at night. Pai said the FCC plans to open an application window this summer for owners of Class C and Class D AM stations that wish to apply for a new FM translator.

Turning to the incentive auction, Pai said part of the FCC’s job is to ensure an efficient and smooth repacking process. “Part of that involves making sure that no protected television broadcaster is forced to go dark due to circumstances outside of its control.” The FCC, broadcasters and wireless carriers will all need to work together on the repack, he said.

And speaking personally, he wants broadcasters to know he hopes for a “new spirit of cooperation” between the agency and station owners.

April 26, 2017      

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