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FCC Chairman Will Introduce Review Of Media Regulations At May Meeting

Deadline logo Deadline 4/25/2017 David Lieberman
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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pleased broadcasters today by vowing to “get unnecessary rules out of the way” — including with a new “comprehensive review” of his agency’s media regulations  that he’ll propose at its May 18 meeting.

Regulators will “explore whether certain rules should be modified to provide regulatory relief to small businesses,” he said today in an address at the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual confab in Las Vegas.

Broadcast rules will be “a critical subject” — but he adds that “we will also review rules pertaining to cable and direct broadcast satellite.”

“Our goal is simple: to have rules that reflect the world of 2017, not 2007, 1997, 1987, or 1977.

As it stands, there are some outdated rules that we’ve already focused on.”

For example, at the May meeting he’ll propose to scrap a rule that requires AM, FM, and television broadcast stations to have a main studio in or near its community of license.

New technologies “have rendered local studios unnecessary,” he says. “Nowadays, if individuals want to contact their local station, they are much more likely to do so by social media, email, or phone call.”

Pai assured broadcasters that he’ll be sensitive to their concerns about potential disruptions as the FCC re-arranges airwave signals following its recent auction of spectrum that stations agreed to sell to wireless broadband providers.

“It’s critical to ensure the transition’s ultimate success, including a smooth and efficient repacking process,” he says. “Part of that involves making sure that no protected television broadcaster is forced to go dark due to circumstances outside of its control.”

On Thursday he named regional FCC coordinators who will “help stations collaborate and help resolve issues that arise.”

The Chairman also pleased his audience by promising to make it “a priority” to advance ATSC 3.0, or Next Gen TV — a new broadcast technology that allows for two-way interactivity, and sharper video images.

“My view is simple: As with any industry, the FCC should promote innovation in the broadcasting business—not stand in the way of progress,” he says. “We should allow interested broadcasters to experiment with this next generation standard.”

He hopes to authorize a new Next Gen standard by year end.

More broadly, Pai vowed to “cut unnecessary red tape, and give broadcasters more flexibility to serve their audiences. Broadcasting remains an indispensable part of America’s communications landscape. And under my Chairmanship, broadcasting won’t be seen as a speed bump.”

He added that he hopes for “a new spirit of cooperation” with the industry. “Even when we don’t agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand. You have my word that this FCC will go wherever the facts and the law lead us. And in return, I would ask that you keep an open mind and apply a presumption of good faith to the decisions we make.”

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