Pai Taps Regulations Critic to Lead FCC’s Economics Push

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By Kyle Daly

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai July 5 appointed a George Mason University economist who champions reining in federal regulations to be the chief economist for the agency.

Jerry Ellig, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s market-oriented Mercatus Center think tank, will oversee efforts to incorporate more cost-benefit economic analysis into FCC decisions. Ellig also will help launch the Office of Economics and Data, a dedicated division within the FCC that Pai hopes to officially establish by the fall.

“I’m excited that Dr. Ellig will lend his talents to the FCC as we continue to integrate economic analysis into our decision-making and create an agency culture that supports big-picture economic thinking once again,” Pai said in a statement.

Ellig likely will be tasked with generating an economics-based rationale for FCC actions taken under Pai. These may include efforts to loosen media regulations and make it easier for broadcasters to grow through acquisitions; the ongoing plan to reverse Obama-era net neutrality rules; and the decision to approve or reject major media and telecom mergers and acquisitions. Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. already is trying to buy Tribune Media Co. and become the nation’s largest broadcaster. Further consolidation is widely expected in both the broadcast and telecom industries.

The selection of Ellig is the latest volley in Pai’s push to eliminate what he has called on more than one occasion “regulatory underbrush” that creates costs and other burdens for the industries the FCC regulates. Ellig has called for a broad reduction in federal regulations in writings for the Mercatus Center and in a number of op-eds and blog posts.

In a recent paper for the Mercatus Center, Ellig said the “current regulatory process is broken,” choked by outdated and economically damaging regulations. Congress and federal agencies should identify and, where possible, eliminate ineffective regulations, he said. Regulatory agencies, such as the FCC, should also perform extensive cost-benefit analysis before introducing any new regulations, Ellig said.

Before joining the Mercatus Center, Ellig served on the George Mason faculty and as deputy director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission. He also served as a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress. He holds degrees in economics from Xavier University and George Mason University.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at

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Ellig's Mercatus paper is available at:

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