FCC Chair Tells Broadcasters to Expect More Modernization Efforts

Pai is circulating a petition on ways to better resolve translator station interference
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FCC Chair Ajit Pai

LAS VEGAS — More modernization efforts are coming out of the offices of the Federal Communications Commission, according to Chairman Ajit Pai during an NAB Show event on Tuesday.

At the “We Are Broadcasters Celebration,” the chairman announced he shared a proposal with his colleagues to update FCC rules on translator interference. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking follows on a petition for rulemaking filed by NAB that would, among other things, allow translator stations to resolve interference by moving to any available frequency using a minor modification application and require a minimum number of interference complaints to support any interference claim.

The goal, Pai said, is to simplify and expedite the complaint process.

Pai also announced that the FCC would soon open a special displacement window for LPTV and translator stations who need to move to new channels as a result of the incentive auction. Congress previously authorized the commission to reimburse LPTVs and translators as well as FM radio stations as part of this reorganization process.

During the session, Pai touched on the other ways the FCC is focused on radio broadcasters, including the recent efforts the commission has made to combat pirate radio. Starting from January 2017, Pai said, the Enforcement Bureau has undertaken 306 pirate-radio investigations and has issued 210 Notices of Unlicensed Operation, a 101% increase in pirate enforcement compared to the previous year. Last year the FCC also began last year holding property owners liable for supporting pirate activity on their property.

During the session Pai also touted the different ways in which broadcasters have supported local communities, and said he believes the FCC’s job is “to create a regulatory environment that enables you to keep doing great work like this. A big part of that is modernizing our media rules to match the marketplace and technology of today.”

Each of the decisions the FCC has made under his tenure follows what he called “a basic philosophical choice about moving forward or looking backward. And on each, we’ve made the right choice — for broadcasters and consumers alike,” he said, saying that broadcasters should be allowed to innovate, that rules should match the modern marketplace, that broadcast service should be extended to more communities and that outdated regulations should be scrapped.

“When you look at all of our media decisions together, the larger picture becomes clear: we are simply allowing any and every broadcaster the ability to compete in a free market, unshackled by regulations that no longer make sense,” Pai said to applause.

The chairman also touted the way that broadcasters serve their community at this new session, which combined the NAB TV Chairman’s Award, Crystal Radio Awards and Engineering Achievement Awards into one event.

“If there has been a dominant theme of the past year for broadcasters, I would say it’s been your role as first informers,” Pai said. He pointed to broadcast stations in the mainland U.S. that have embraced public health issues and charity efforts as well as stations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who served as first informers during the 2017 hurricane season.

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