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Pai: Media Ownership Proposal Belies Record

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai suggested the FCC is living in the 1970s while broadcasters have to survive in the digital age.

In response to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's circulation to the other commissioners this week of a quadrennial media ownership review that retains legacy regs and even toughens them, Pai said Wednesday that while the FCC's rules should reflect today's media marketplace, Wheeler's proposal does not.

"Last month, the FCC had no problem approving not one, but two multibillion dollar cable mergers," which Pai supported. "Last year, it signed off on AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV," he added. "Yet, it now gets the vapors at the prospect of a newspaper in Scranton, Pa., owning a single radio station.

"Whatever the motivation for the Chairman’s proposal [the chairman generally aligns his motivations with 'competition, competition, competition'] it has nothing to do with the evidence in the record, principled decision-making, or the law."

Pai suggested the rules may ultimately reign in an empty kingdom. "[G]iven current trends, it is likely that the Commission’s newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership restrictions will outlive the print newspaper industry itself," he said.

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.