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Pai Reiterates FCC Priorities for Radio

FCC chair addressed the Michigan Broadcasters Association Aug. 14

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Ensuring interference protections, cracking down on pirates and revitalizing AM radio — those remain key priorities for the Federal Communications Commission as it heads into the fall.

That was the declaration of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who told a crowd of broadcasters at a Michigan Association of Broadcasters event on Aug. 14 that moving the ball forward on the AM radio revitalization effort before becoming chairman “was perhaps my proudest achievement at the FCC,” he said.

His next step: introducing a new draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that contains new proposals regarding interference protection for Class A stations. “[The changes] are based in large part on comments we received from experienced broadcast engineers,” he said. “In my view, our rules should reflect the reality of the current noise floor and appropriately balance the interests of Americans who want to listen to smaller local stations in their communities with those who enjoy listening to Class A stations.”

He hopes that draft notice is approved quickly so that the FCC can solicit public feedback on the new proposals.

In his speech, Pai also noted that the FCC has seen a “tremendous response” after reforming technical rules so that AM broadcasters could obtain FM translators. The 2017 Auction 99 window resulted in the granting of more than 800 new construction permits to AM stations for FM translators, many of them to stations in Michigan, as well as more than 500 new construction permits as a result of the filing window in Auction 100.

He also reiterated the FCC’s focus on shutting down pirate radio operations, highlighting a $144,344 fine levied against an alleged pirate operator and landlord in Miami. “We’re sending a loud and clear message: If landlords knowingly aid and abet pirate radio operations, we’ll go after them too, and they too will face the (fully licensed and appropriate) music,” he said.

Pai also touched on the commission’s new broadcast incubator program, which is designed to encourage new entry into the broadcast industry, and urged established broadcasters in the audience to consider participating in this new program.

Initially, Pai said, the program will apply only to radio, because radio has traditionally been the most accessible entry point for new entrants and small businesses seeking to join the broadcasting sector.

“Through these relationships, we aim to boost diversity and competition in broadcasting. And we hope to give a new generation of leaders a start. Our goal is to enable small, aspiring broadcast station owners to pair with established broadcasters who can help with training, finances, mentoring, and industry connections,” he said.