Pai Proposes Major Broadcast Deregulation

FCC chair Ajit Pai said he has circulated for a vote at the November meeting a media ownership item that would achieve major broadcast deregulation.

It would eliminate the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules, the radio-TV crossownership rule, the eight-voices test for duopolies, the attribution rules for joint sales agreements (by concluding they serve the public interest), and "finally, finally," Pai said, establish an incubator program for new, diverse entrants.

Pai outlined the item at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing Wednesday (Oct. 25). The committee was prepared for the bombshell.

"It’s curious that this hearing is scheduled for today in particular — just one day before Chairman Pai is expected to make public at least one proposal that enriches a single company above others, and that would clear out any last obstacles to Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchase of Tribune Media Company," said ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).

Pai has long signaled such deregulation was coming, likely before the end of the year, and broadcasters have long pushed for such deregulation, arguing it was designed for a marketplace without MVPD and online competition.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who was also at the witness table, said the proposal was to get rid of the best of broadcast regulations.

House Democrats on the panel suggested the dereg was yet another thumb on the scale for the Sinclair-Tribune deal.

A determined, almost combative, Pai said that the text of the decision would be published Thursday, calling it "news that's fit to print."

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.