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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Promises to Cut Red Tape, Review Existing Media Regulations

Variety logo Variety 4/25/2017 Janko Roettgers
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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai used his keynote address at the NAB Show in Las Vegas Tuesday to argue that many of the FCC’s existing media regulations are unnecessary and outdated. “One of the most powerful sources in government is inertia,” Pai said, arguing that the FCC simply didn’t need more than 1,000 regulations for the media industry.

To change this, the commission is going to kick off what he called a “comprehensive review” of existing media relations at its next public meeting on May 18. “The last thing that broadcasting needs is outdated rules standing in its way,” said Pai.

He singled out a few regulations as ripe for review, including a mandate that broadcasters have a local studio in a market they are serving. “It seems to me that technological innovations have rendered local studios unnecessary,” he argued. Listeners could instead just use social media to get in touch with their broadcasters.

Pai also said that local broadcasters are still a key player in the media landscape, despite growing competition from online news and entertainment sources. “I remain fundamentally optimistic about the future of broadcasting,”  he said. Local news for example had grown in the past few years, which he attributed to market forces alone. “This didn’t occur because of government mandates.”

Notably absent from his remarks was any reference to net neutrality. Earlier this week, news broke that Pai is going to outline his plans to roll back net neutrality protections Wednesday with a speech to the conservative FreedomWorks group. The FCC has confirmed his appearance, but not commented on the content of the speech.

Previous FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had enacted strong net neutrality regulations, preventing service operators from treating their own services differently from those of third parties, and even for the first time extending these rules to mobile operators. Pai is widely expected to roll back much of these rules, and may instead bank on voluntary agreements with service operators.

Pai joked about the differences between the new commission under his leadership and the previous commission under Wheeler, quipping: “What a difference a year makes.” At the same time, he promised a thorough review of all future changes. “This FCC will go where the facts and the law will lead us.”

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