President Trump’s order that federal agencies eliminate two regulations on the books for every one adopted may not technically apply to independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, but agency chief Ajit Pai said Thursday he plans to go along with the mission nevertheless.
“If you look at some of the actions, we have repealed, revised or mitigated some of the regulations that have been on the books,” he said. Pai pointed out that the process began during his first meeting as chairman when the FCC abolished the rule requiring radio and television stations to keep paper copies of all listener correspondence—including printouts of emails and social media posts—in the local public inspection file. “So even if the executive order does not apply, we view this whether any regulation on the books continues to be necessary in the public interest in 2017; if they don’t, we obviously want to modernize them and make sure they are not standing in the way of investment and innovation,” he said.
One area where broadcasters would like to see the FCC take action is among its media ownership regulations. Pai declined to say how soon the Commission may tackle making updates to the rules, but he left little doubt it’s become a question of when—not if—change will arrive. “We are in the process of reviewing the appropriate way forward,” he said. Pai told reporters that the prohibition of joint ownership of both radio stations and a newspaper in the same city is particularly outdated. “There’s literally no evidence in the record to support that restriction,” he said.
Pointing to the work done at the FCC during his short tenure, Pai said his “fast start” of modernizing the agency is “showing no signs of slowing down.” But one area where he is giving a wide berth is President Trump’s attacks on the news media. During a press conference reporters repeatedly pressed Pai on the White House’s critique of the media and so-called “fake news” but Pai stuck with a script of comments that he earlier shared with the Senate Commerce Committee.