FCC to Kick Off Major Review of Media Regulations in May

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By Kyle Daly

The Federal Communications Commission will kick off a “comprehensive review” of its media regulations May 18, Chairman Ajit Pai said April 25.

The agency will vote on a proposal to review hundreds of pages of regulations to determine which rules should be updated or eliminated, Pai said at the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual conference in Las Vegas. Pai circulated a public notice teeing up the review process among his fellow commissioners, who will also review rules pertaining to cable and direct-broadcast satellite TV, he said.

“The last thing broadcasting—or any industry for that matter—needs is outdated regulations standing in its way,” Pai said. “That’s why I’ll work aggressively to modernize the FCC’s rules, cut unnecessary red tape and give broadcasters more flexibility to serve their audiences.”

The commission voted April 20 to reinstate the “UHF discount” in broadcast ownership rules. Under the discount, TV stations on ultra-high frequencies (UHF) count half as much toward national ownership limits as stations on very high frequencies (VHF). Pai wants the FCC to have “rules that reflect the world of 2017, not 2007, 1997, 1987, or 1977,” he said. Pai’s FCC is expected to eliminate media ownership limits that affect the ability of broadcasters such as Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and CBS Corp. to consolidate and share resources.

Pai told reporters that the initial proposal launching the review will largely center on asking affected industries for input on which regulations should be relaxed or killed. The FCC has no timeline in mind for how long the review will last before the agency moves to actually eliminate or alter rules, he said.

The FCC will conduct the review separately from its statutory requirement to review existing media ownership rules every four years, Pai said. The next quadrennial review is scheduled to begin in 2018. Previous commissions have missed deadlines to complete quadrennial reviews. Pai has said he wants to make the FCC meet statutory obligations consistently.

The FCC will also vote May 18 on a proposal to end the “main studio rule,” which requires TV and radio stations to maintain main studios in or near the communities where they hold their broadcast licenses. Pai said technology has made local studios unnecessary. Listeners and viewers who want to contact a station are more likely to do so via social media, email or a phone call, he said, rather than a letter or in-person visit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Daly in Washington at kdaly@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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