Ajit Pai to Be FCC Chair [telecom]

By John Eggerton, Multichannel News, 1/20/2017

FCC senior Republican Ajit Pai has been named President Donald Trump's pick as chairman of the FCC, according to a Republican source confirming a report in Politico.

Trump met with Pai Jan. 16, which appeared a clear signal he would be getting the big chair, at least to begin with and perhaps permanently.

Because he has already been confirmed by the Senate, Pai does not need to be renominated or go through a Senate hearing. In fact, the source said the appointment had been made official--with the stroke of a pen

- by early evening Friday (Jan. 20).

Pai's first public meeting as chairman--with a 2-1 majority--will be Jan. 31. It features a single, noncontroversial item: "Eliminate the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain copies of letters and emails from the public in their public inspection file and the requirement that cable operators retain the location of the cable system's principal headend in their public inspection file."

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Back when I was working in the cable TV industry the public inspection file was an ongoing headache. Keeping it up to date, with current required information, was a problem in itself. But keeping the office staff aware of what is was, and where it was, was an almost impossible task. The mostly-female staff couldn't understand why I kept reminding them. Occasionally one of them would say something like, "nobody ever asks for it anyway."

Well, that was true -- to my knowledge nobody ever did ask to see it. But there was always the remote possibility that an FCC inspector would show up and ask for it.

Or that some vociferously anti-cable newspaper reporter would ask for it. Just one more piece of evidence for his vendetta: "... and they didn't even know where their public-inspection file was".

Neal McLain

Reply to
Neal McLain
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This is actually a decent choice, I'll give him that.

The chairman of the FCC is (and has always been) designated by the president from among the sitting membership of the Commission. (So this is nothing new.) A lot of times in the past, when a sitting chairman has stepped down, the president will designate his or her successor as "interim" chairman with the expectation that his nominee to fill the vacated seat will be designated chairman upon confirmation.

Historically, it's not uncommon for FCC commissioners to resign rather than serving out their term. One concern is that the commission can't act without a quorum, which it will lose whenever Mignon Clyburn's term is up unless the president appoints (and gains senate confirmation on) commissioners to fill the two vacant seats on the commission. There is a partisan-balance rule prohibiting more than three of the five commissioners from belonging to the same party as the president.

The original plan in the Communications Act of 1932 was for seven commissioners serving staggered seven-year terms; this lasted through World War II but was reduced to the current five commissioners in the

1950s, a result of conservative agitation against the power of the FCC to regulate the broadcast media.

Today, the rules allow for some broadcasters to maintain their public files in online form. It's particularly important for political candidates' lawyers to be able to verify that they were not unlawfully refused advertising time at the federally mandated "least unit charge" and non-discriminatory terms -- one of the few bits of content regulation that has lasted from the three-network era to today. Wouldn't be surprised to see it killed off entirely, although this would take an act of Congress, and they might not care to vote for something that will make their campaigns more expensive.


Reply to
Garrett Wollman

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