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Chairman Pai Will Leave FCC in January

He has been a cheerleader for radio, often speaking about its importance in American life

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will leave the FCC in January.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as chairman of the FCC over the past four years,” he said in a statement.

Pai is a Republican who departs ahead of an expected new chair being appointed by President-elect Joe Biden.

“I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to lead the agency in 2017, to President Obama for appointing me as a commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for twice confirming me. To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.”

[Read Radio World’s interview with Ajit Pai shortly after he took the reins as chair in 2017.]

Pai has been a cheerleader for radio in his tenure, often speaking about the importance of the medium in American life, and he has sought to help bolster AM broadcasters in particular through a series of “revitalization” measures. He also has pushed efforts to streamline processes and reduce regulations. Among many changes during his tenure was the elimination of the main studio rule.

Pai thanked the FCC’s “talented staff” and said they “performed heroically, especially during the pandemic.”

“It’s also been an honor to work with my fellow commissioners to execute a strong and broad agenda.  Together, we’ve delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety.  And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices.  As a result, our nation’s communications networks are now faster, stronger, and more widely deployed than ever before.”

Among the highlights he cited are “reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people.  In particular, for the first time ever, we’ve made public drafts of the proposals and orders slated for a vote three weeks before the agency’s monthly meetings, making this the most transparent FCC in history.”

Reacting to the news, Gordon Smith, the president/CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, called Pai a “champion of free and local broadcasting” who brought a “fair, thoughtful approach to regulation” that led to common-sense reforms.

“Most notably, Chairman Pai modernized the commission’s media ownership rules, authorized and promoted the transition to the Next Gen TV transmission standard, helped revitalize the AM radio band and cleared out some significant regulatory underbrush that was no longer in the public interest,” Smith said.

NATE, the Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, said in a statement, “NATE is forever grateful to Chairman Pai for utilizing his platform at the FCC to help shine a spotlight on the prominent role that the tower technician workforce plays to enable a connected society.”