Skip to main content

Pai to NRB: Broadcasters Aren't Feeling the Love From FCC

Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai told some religious broadcasters (National Religious Broadcasters) meeting in Washington Wednesday that he has noticed more commercial broadcasters are becoming "people of faith" and he thinks he has figured it out: "After having tried all other options, broadcasters have concluded that prayer was their only hope of being treated fairly by the FCC."

That was a joke, of course, but his serious message to them was along the same lines: Broadcasters are not getting a lot of love out of the commission these days.

"I hear the complaints privately from broadcasters of all stripes: commercial, public, and religious. They believe that the current FCC just doesn’t value the service that broadcasters provide to their communities. They don’t feel that the Commission has an open mind when it hears broadcasters’ arguments. And when I see some of the proposals that come across my desk, I do sometimes find myself wondering: Is this all a test by the FCC to see if broadcasters have the patience of Job?" he said, according to a text of his speech.

He used the first part of his speech to criticize the FCC for the proposal to reserve a vacant channel in each TV market for unlicensed devices after the broadcast incentive auction, which will leave one fewer channel for the low-power TV stations, many of which are religious, that have no signal protection in the auction.

Like broadcasters, Pai argues that licensed services should have priority particularly given that there are other spectrum bands that can and should accommodate unlicensed.

"To be clear, I am a strong advocate for making more spectrum available for unlicensed devices. But if low-power stations are not allowed to continue operating in the UHF band, they will go out of business. That’s just not the case for unlicensed devices. To the contrary, there are other spectrum bands where such devices can currently operate as well as spectrum bands that we can and should make available for new unlicensed use," 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.