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Pai’s FCC Moves Quickly on a Host of FCC Issues

Since he was elevated to the position of FCC Chairman in late January, Ajit Pai has led the FCC in quickly reversing course on several previous FCC initiatives under former Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The Pai FCC also has “finished the job” on one of the Wheeler Administration’s proposals.

FCC watchers say Trump’s designation of Pai as the new Chairman, rather than nominating a new one, has sped up action at the FCC in a way that‘s leaving the broadcast industry’s collective heads spinning.

Typically it takes several months for a new FCC Chairman to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate before real action at the FCC begins.

Attorneys Scott Flick and Jessica Nyman of TAB’s FCC legal counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman note that “the pace of the transition has therefore been nearly without precedent”. 

That’s because the departure of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, led to an instant Republican majority at the FCC, giving Pai the ability to act quickly to rescind several Wheeler FCC actions.

An exception was last week’s formal vote at the FCC to do away with a nearly 50-year-old requirement that commercial stations keep letters, and more recently emails, from the public in the station Public File.

It’s a welcome change for broadcasters but attorney Gregg Skall of TAB Associate member law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice suggests that stations might want to hang on to that paper for just awhile longer.

He explains why and what the rule change means for broadcasters here.

Pai and the FCC’s GOP commissioners are forced to act quickly to rescind recent Wheeler era decisions.

“As a general rule, the FCC bureaus have 30 days after the release of a decision to reconsider the action on their own motion.  Because many of these decisions occurred in early January, time is now running out on rescinding them,” said Flick.

Accordingly, revocations have been happening at breakneck speed.

On Thursday, the FCC’s Media Bureau reversed a January FCC decision on noncom ownership reporting requirements.

In other words, the FCC reconsidered its reconsideration of the noncom ownership rules

And it didn’t stop there.

On Friday, the Media Bureau reversed itself on two other major recent actions involving political advertising sponsorship disclosure and shared services agreements such as JSAs

Chairman Pai issued a brief statement explaining the FCC’s rapid action to revoke what he deemed “last-minute actions” released in the “waning days of the last Administration”.

TAB Associate member communications lawyers are used to working in a very fast-moving field, but as Flick notes, “we’ve entered a period where major changes are coming at lightning speed.”

It’s all the more reason for broadcasters to be alert.

For the most part, several of the most recent FCC moves have been welcomed by broadcasters.

The Feb. 23 meeting of the FCC could be another portent of things to come.

AM stations have been heartened by Pai’s interest over the years in AM revitalization.

Attorney Matt McCormick of TAB Associate member law firm Fletcher Heald and Hildreth has a preview of one measure that could help bolster AM stations if it makes the posted agenda – a proposal to drop the 40-mile FM translator siting cap for AM stations.

Questions? Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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