FCC’s Pai set to ‘modernize’ FCC rules, ‘cut red tape’ for broadcasters and cable companies

Ajit Pai (FCC)
Pai said agency commissioners will begin a “comprehensive review” of rules affecting broadcasters, cable operators and satellite TV companies this spring.

LAS VEGAS—Articulating his laissez faire regulatory philosophies in broad strokes to a cheering throngs of broadcast-industry denizens in an NAB keynote address Tuesday morning, new Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai promised to “modernize” FCC rules, “cut red tape” and generally “give broadcasters the tools they need to better serve their audiences."

“The last thing broadcast needs are outdated rules standing in their way,” he said to loud applause. “We want to make sure the rules match the reality of 2017, not 1987. 

Pai said agency commissioners will begin a “comprehensive review” of rules affecting broadcasters, cable operators and satellite TV companies this spring. “We’re going to see if certain rules should be modified to provide regulatory relief for small business,” said Pai, who took over for the more heavy-handed Tom Wheeler in January. 

Pai said that the FCC will look to greenlight the experimentation by broadcasters of the new ATSC 3.0 standard by the end of the year. The agency, he added, will also look to abolish the old “main studio” rule, which requires radio and TV broadcasters to maintain a key studio in the markets in which they have a license. 

The new Chairman gave a shout-out to Mike O’Rielly, who served as Pai’s only other Republican peer during their lonely days on the Wheeler led commission. He also tipped his hat to Democratic FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, noting that she has made an effort to work with him in a bipartisan way. This latter flattery was really a mechanism to deliver a dig to Wheeler—Pai noted that Clyburn was in contrast to the “previous leadership that was not amenable to compromise.”

Notably, Pai did not outline his agenda for net neutrality, a topic he is expected to broach Tuesday.

He closed his short address by tying his regulatory philosophy to the style of legendary L.A. Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully, who often spoke briefly and eloquently, before letting the crowd noise do the talking. 

“Vin Scully tried to call the plays fast and let the crowd do the talking,” Pai said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do—get out of the way, so broadcasters can rev that engine."