The FCC chairman says his approach to broadcast regulations is “You either believe in scrapping outdated regulations or you don’t. We do.” And he thanks broadcasters for their support, especially during the controversy over net neutrality which resulted in death threats.
LAS VEGAS — For the most part, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s speech Tuesday to broadcasters at the NAB Show was standard fare — some pats on the back for the broadcasters and a recitation of FCC actions that he believes will help them compete more effectively.
But at the end, Pai went off script and displayed some emotion in thanking broadcasters for their personal support during some of the “challenges” he has faced during his 15 months as chairman.
He didn’t specify the challenges, but they would include, above all, death threats that he received after he led the FCC in eliminating the net neutrality rules late last year. Those threats caused him to cancel his appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
In introducing Pai, NAB President Gordon Smith made reference to the threats, noting that it is “not easy for Pai to travel.”
Pai said he knew from former FCC chairmen that the job was one of the toughest in Washington. “It’s also something I’ve learned firsthand.”
And for him, he said, the “challenges have … spilled outside the FCC and it is in that regard that I want to extend my thanks to you — the folks in this room.”
“I do want … to let you know that … I very much cherish your statements, emails, tweets … personal conversations when I see you in the hallways, and for your thoughts and prayers from afar. They mean more than you know.
“So, on behalf of myself, the Pai family, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to you. Thank you for being there for me and for us when it counted. I’ll never forget it.”
In terms of the standard fare, Pai said his initiative to eliminate unnecessary broadcast rules, which he announced at last year’s NAB Show, has so far yielded eight rulemakings and there are more to come.
“In particular, Commissioner [Michael] O’Rielly is now leading an effort to update our children’s television rules so that they better reflect the way that kids watch video these days, and I look forward to getting his recommendations.”
On Monday, O’Rielly told a group of broadcasters he would like to get rid of the current rule requiring TV stations to air three hours of children’s programming in the form of 30-minute shows each week between 7 and 10 a.m.
Pai said he approaches broadcast regulation as a series of choices. In the review of the FCC regs, it was: “You either believe in scrapping outdated regulations or you don’t.”
“You either believe broadcasters should be allowed to innovate, or you don’t. And we do.
“So last November, the FCC adopted rules authorizing the Next Gen TV transmission standard. Unfortunately, we ran up against some resistance. Some demanded that we strangle Next Gen TV in its infancy with extensive regulation — regulation they’d never think of foisting on video services from Silicon Valley giants.
“They stoked false fears about losing signals and having to buy new equipment. Fortunately, the FCC rejected this shameful attempt to block progress. I look forward to seeing the consumer benefits from this new technology in the time to come.
“You either believe in rules that match the modern marketplace, or you don’t. And we do.
“So last year, we also approved a long-overdue update to our media ownership rules. One of them was ending the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban — a ban that was adopted in 1975.
“With the proliferation of online news sources, cable TV and more, the idea that a company could dominate a media market by owning a broadcast station and a newspaper is utter nonsense.
“You either believe in extending broadcast service to more communities, or you don’t. And we do.
“That’s why we scrapped the main studio rule, which predated World War II. Ending this rule gives broadcasters greater flexibility without sacrificing transparency or community engagement. And it’s already making it easier for broadcasters to add new service or maintain existing service in rural communities.”
Pai also patted himself on the back for helping broadcasters secure an additional $1 billion from Congress to insure that they will be fully reimbursed for moving to new channels in the wake of the FCC incentive auction.
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