FCC Is Not Bound By Trump Regulatory Fiats

Related: FCC Media Ownership Rules Head Back to Court

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to put a hold on federal regulations once he gets into the Oval Office, but the Federal Communications Commission is shielded from that initial presidential proclamation.

As part of his first 100 days plan, the president-elect has said he will impose a moratorium on new federal regulations. Then, when new regulations are imposed, he says for every one added two should be eliminated.

While that sounds more like campaign rhetoric than a workable plan, Trump has included it on his transition website as one of the things he wants to do.

But as an independent agency, the FCC is not subject to executive orders or presidential pronouncements.

For example, when President Barack Obama issued executive orders about agencies doing cost-benefit analysis of new regulations, the FCC was exempt from the directive.

But the president can also make his wishes felt in no uncertain terms. For example, after Obama came out publicly urging the FCC to reclassify internet service providers (ISPs) under Title II, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler pivoted to that position.

Certainly President-elect Trump can appoint an FCC chairman who would agree that less regulation is better.

That would be the case with either Republican commissioner Ajit Pai, expected to be the interim chairman at least after Trump takes over on Jan. 20 (and perhaps the permanent chair), or economist Jeffrey Eisenach of the American Enterprise Institute and George Mason University, another possible pick for chairman.

Eisenach has definite views on preserving the independence of independent agencies.

In a recent interview on C-SPAN’s Communicators series, Eisenach said: “What I don’t think a President Trump would do, and hope he wouldn’t do, is intervene to instruct an independent regulatory agency how to issue a particular regulation.”

Eisenach says the FCC should be “more focused on enforcing existing rules and less focused on writing new ones.”

Pai was a long and strong critic of Obama’s push for reclassifying ISPs as common carriers. In fact, he blamed the White House for dragging the FCC “kicking and screaming” toward Title II and branded the proposal “President Obama’s plan.”


President-elect Donald Trumphas a history of slamming the media, whether it is news outlets covering him or his former bosses at NBC and its parent, Comcast.

But the first presidential ticket to boast network TV experience (The Apprentice) and syndicated radio experience (VP-elect Mike Pence was a conservative talk radio host) is expanding that media-centric D.C. profile.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s controversial new chief strategist—billed as a coequal to chief of staff Reince Priebus—comes from the right-leaning website Breitbart News and hosted a conservative talk show on Sirius XM.

Bannon also has a connection to Trump’s former Apprentice stomping ground, NBC. According to numerous reports, Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, helped negotiate the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment and in return received a financial stake in Seinfeld reruns.

In line to be the White House press secretary is Laura Ingraham, another syndicated talk radio show host and guest host on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.