Pai's Weed Whacker: FCC Continues Deregulatory Actions on Cable, AM Radio

Approves cable TV tech standards, AM radio revitalization prior to September meeting

The Federal Communications Commission late Friday adopted technical rules for a digital cable transition and technical requirements to streamline AM radio revitalization—actions that fulfill Chairman Ajit Pai's "weed whacking" approach and deregulatory objectives. The decisions also lighten the agenda for next Tuesday's FCC Open Meeting.

In a Notification that it was deleting the two items from the Sept. 26 agenda, the Commission did not offer details on how the two items—which have been simmering at the agency for five and four years respectively—were resolved, such as the Commissioners' votes on each item. Analysts contacted by B&C acknowledged that such actions are not unusual when the Commission seeks to streamline its Open Meeting schedules.

The Commission adopted a Cable Television Technical and Operational Standards Report and Order (from 2012), which "modernizes its cable television technical rules to reflect the cable industry’s use of digital transmission systems." The action brings rules into congruence with cable's widespread transition from analog to digital delivery.

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The AM Radio Revitalization action updated the Commission's Third Report and Order (from 2013), which relaxes or eliminates rules about how AM broadcasters employ and maintain directional antenna arrays. The rule changes are designed "to ease the regulatory and financial burdens faced by AM broadcasters operating directional antenna."

Tuesday's lengthy agenda still includes a proposal to eliminate rules about paper record-keeping by certain cable and broadcasting organizations plus a plan to update rules for the licensing of the next generation of non-geostationary, fixed-satellite service systems, among many other items.