Pai: Keeping Crossownership Ban Was 'Profound Mistake'

In a speech to the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Monday, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai called the FCC majority's decision to retain the newspaper-broadcast crossownerhip rules a "profound mistake."

Pai said the decision made no sense given that broadcasters are well situated to partner with newspapers and multiplatform is the best way to make investment in news profitable.

The FCC Democrats did vote to add a "failing station" exemption for such crossownerships, as there is with TV license transfers that would otherwise create duopolies that violate ownership limits, but critics of the rule suggested that if the FCC was waiting until a newspaper was in dire straits before granting relief, that was a little late.

Pai is no opponent of media mergers, but he pointed out, as he has before, that the FCC seems to have little compunction about letting others merge—Comcast-NBCU, AT&T-DirecTV, Charter-Time Warner Cable-Bright House (Pai voted for two out of three and only dissented in the last deal because the FCC was imposing too many conditions for his taste)—but "puts its foot down" when it comes to a newspaper purchasing a single rural Kansas station.

Pai says he thinks the decision had nothing to do with facts or the law or common sense and everything to do with politics. He said that without some judicial intervention, the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule may outlive newspapers.

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.