Pai: Court Has Been Impediment to His Broadcast Diversity Efforts

(Image credit: Future Media)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says he has been trying to focus on diversity for the last couple of years,but has been hampered by the courts.

Pai was asked during his post public meeting press conference Tuesday (June 9) about the link between media ownership and the wider conversation in the country about racial justice, whether the FCC was doing enough to promote media diversity and what more it could do.

Related: NAB's Sutter Says Education, Access Are Keys to Diversity

In 2017, Pai had reconstituted the FCC's diversity and digital empowerment advisory committee, which had been disbanded under his predecessor (Tom Wheeler), he said.

Pai said he thought it was important for everyone from poor Mississippi communities to Alaskan villages above the arctic circle that FCC policies are informed by diverse communities.

That was also why the FCC had set up the broadcast incubator program as an element in its effort to deregulate media ownership, the chairman said, adding that it had been talked about for two decades but "we actually got it done."

Pai agreed the FCC could do more, but said it had run into a road block in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which he said wrongly rejected the FCC's media deregulation decision, which he said was a common sense decision based on changes in the marketplace, and the incubator itself.

Related: FCC's Starks Says Policymakers Must Be More Inclusive

The Third Circuit actually threw out most of the media ownership dereg because it said the FCC had not taken into account its impact on media diversity. 

He called that court decision especially unfortunate for minority and historically disadvantaged communities looking to gain a broadcast foothold, which the incubator program would have allowed many minorities to do.

Pai said he was interested in working with Commissioner Geoffrey Starkes, who is African American, and anyone else interested in diversity issues. "My goal is to make sure that  every American has an opportunity to participate in the broadcast business, which has been a great springboard for minorities..."

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.