Pai Passes on CES

FCC chairman Ajit Pai, an avowed techie, will not be attending the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week after all, CTA President Gary Shapiro said late Wednesday (Jan. 3).

"Unfortunately, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai is unable to attend CES 2018," Shapiro said Wednesday. "We look forward to our next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience."

Pai had been scheduled for a show appearance, but canceled Wednesday, according to a source.

An FCC spokesperson declined comment on the chairman's absence from the show, but FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, another big tech fan, was also a no-show in 2016 (he was a lame duck in 2017), citing scheduling conflicts.

Citing Hill sources, DigitalMusicNews was reporting that Pai's canceled appearance was prompted by multiple death threats tied to the show.

An FCC spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the alleged cause, but the chairman has been subject to threats tied to the Dec. 14 vote to roll back net neutrality rules and has had Homeland Security protection for public meetings, including the net neutrality vote, where the meeting room was briefly evacuated before the final vote.

For an FCC chairman to circumscribe his movements due to threats on his life would clearly be a troubling precedent.

Reddit threads on the cancellation certainly confirmed the animus toward the chairman in some quarters, as well as the threats. "I'd give him 50/50 on getting out of the building alive," wrote one commenter on Pai's orignal plan to make an appearance; "I bet there were some death threats involved at some point. He is hated enough for that to happen. I am not in anyway saying doing that is ok but it is bound to happen," wrote another.

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.