/// FCC’s Pai Makes Vigorous Case to Loosen Media Ownership Rules

February 7, 2013  |  Media Week

Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai made it clear where he stands on media ownership rules. In a no-holds-barred style that is becoming the GOP commissioner's trademark, Pai laid out a vigorous defense for loosening or eliminating the rules that govern how many broadcast stations and newspapers a company can own in any one market. “The competition that [TV broadcasters] face for viewers and advertisers is stronger than it has ever been,” said Pai addressing a Media Institute luncheon in Washington. “Our regulations have to reflect that reality.” Pai's remarks were made as commissioners are considering a draft proposal circulated by FCC Julius Genachowski to modify the media ownership rules by lifting the cross-ownership ban on newspaper and radio stations and allow newspaper-broadcast combinations in the top 20 markets. But the proposed rules would also count shared services agreements (for news, programming, and sales) between broadcast stations towards ownership limits, a provision Pai ripped to shreds in his luncheon speech. “I can't believe we are debating tightening the rules with shared service and joint sales agreements. I fear the effects will be quite negative, especially in smaller markets,” said Pai, who pointed to a number of examples where the agreements benefited viewers. In his home state of Kansas for example, an agreement between an Entravision and Univision station in Wichita enabled the introduction of the only Spanish-language local newscast in the market. “If the FCC effectively prohibits these agreements, fewer stations in small-town America will offer news programming and they will invest less in news gathering. And the economics suggest that there will likely be fewer television stations, period,” Pai said. Even though when asked, Pai didn't give a straight answer as to whether he would vote against the FCC's media ownership draft, few in the room doubted that he was voting “yes” unless the SSA provision came out. “These agreements have concrete value,” Pai said. FCC's Genachowski finds himself between a rock and a hard place on the quadrennial review of the rules, which are already two years late

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FCC’s Pai Makes Vigorous Case to Loosen Media Ownership Rules

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