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FCC to Review Media Regulations

Pai and O’Rielly cite modernization; Clyburn calls move “deregulation at the expense of the American consumer”

Following Chairman Ajit Pai’s promise to cull some of his agency’s regulatory underbrush, the Federal Communications Commission plans to review those FCC rules that affect media companies.

While the goal is to attempt to modernize rules and foster investment in the media marketplace, one commissioner is not on-board with the plan.

The public has been invited to weigh in on which media rules are unnecessary or burdensome and should be modified or eliminated. The move is designed to potentially reduce regulations that limit competition, innovation and investment in the media marketplace. The commission is also seeking input regarding specific rules from which small businesses should receive regulatory relief.

Chairman Pai and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly approved the action; Commissioner Mignon Clyburn did not.

“The purpose of a public notice should be to gather information and build a record before drawing conclusions,” she said during the FCC’s Open Meeting on May 18. “There seems, in the case of this, [that] the FCC’s majority starts with a premise that advancing the public interest can only be achieved by clearing the books of rules for the benefit of industry.”

“To be clear, I have no objection to reviewing the commission’s rules.” But, she said, it seems that the majority’s use of the word “modernization” “is really just code for deregulation at the expense of the American consumer.”

O’Rielly disagreed, citing current broadcast notification requirements, for example, that are calling out for reform.

“For example, our rules often require broadcasters to give public notice of certain applications in local newspapers,” O’Rielly said. “But with newspaper circulation often dwarfed by the broadcaster’s audience or nonexistent, these notices would be much more effectively given on a station’s website.”

Pai concurred. “The goal here is simple. And it is the same as it is with our biannual review,” saying the commission wants to determine how to update its rules to match the realities of today’s marketplace, get public input on which rules are still necessary, and modernize rules to better promote the public interest and set a clear a path for more competition and investment.

“This is simply good governance,” he said.

The comment deadline for this issue (listed as Media Bureau Docket 17-105) is July 5; the reply comment deadline is Aug. 4. Comments can be filed electronically via the commission’s ECFS system.