FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has sent a strong signal that broadcast regulations from the last century don’t match the realities of this one.
Readers of this page over the past quarter-century and more will understand the enthusiasm with which the broadcast ownership revamp, announced on Oct. 25, was received here.
When the FCC wanted to recover spectrum from broadcasters in the incentive auction, the message was that it was prehistoric technology on the way to the tar pits in favor of newer video delivery technologies. But when it came time to free that “declining” medium from some of the regulations that made it harder to compete with multichannel video programming distributors and the internet, the idea was somehow unthinkable.
To quote the sages of ESPN, “Come on, man!”
This chairman has been sending various regulatory signals that the relevant competitive prism with which to view broadcasters includes a rainbow of players: online, cable and satellite.
The largest national MVPDs and edge providers dwarf broadcast group owners. Video is coming from all sides, and while broadcasters continue to rebound via cost-conscious cord-cutters, that is the marketplace, not government, making the choice.
We are not advocating for shuttering the FCC. There still needs to be a communications cop on the beat. But the chairman is injecting some needed marketplace reality into the regulatory equation.