Statement of REC Networks: Ajit Pai's announced departure from the FCC

Statement of Michelle Bradley, Founder, REC Networks:

Greetings from Riverton.

Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that he will be departing from the Federal Communications Commission on January 20, 2021. 

His administration was overshadowed by the Net Neutrality issue, an issue that leads to threats made against his family as well as a called-in bomb threat that delayed an FCC open meeting on the subject.  While the Chairman and I are on opposite ends of the Net Neutrality issue, I said at the time and I say to this day, that was not the appropriate method of expressing a grievance.

Chairman Pai and I definitely did have some policy disagreements, especially where it came to issues such as ownership caps and the social experiment called the broadcast incubator.  Despite that, there were some good things that came out of Pai’s FCC and other things, while well intended, could have been implemented better.

In the Media Modernization Initiative, we saw some things that made a lot of sense, such as overdue restructuring of the NCE and LPFM comparative review rules, eliminating unnecessary rules such as posting of station licenses, paying for classified ads to make public notices and archaic site sharing rules that dated back to the materials shortages that were encountered during World War II.  Some aspects of Media Modernization stabbed right at the heart of localism, especially the elimination of the main studio rule. 

While AM Revitalization was an entire suite of reforms intended to help out AM stations, much of the focus was on the aftermath of FM translator Auctions 99 and 100 and then to add insult to injury, no real technical reforms were afforded to LPFM, especially stations in rural areas, to increase their reach while remaining hyperlocal.

Pai was not anti-LPFM and while he liked LPFM, he liked the NAB even more. While under Pai’s administration, we did get some technical improvements in 19-193, the major hot button issues were shielded by a safety blanket regarding the nature of LPFM filers that was speculated in the 1990s thus resulting in this “keep it simple” battle cry for LPFM regulation. 

Internally, within the FCC, Pai gave us the “rocket docket”, which resulted in proceedings going from comments to orders in a faster time and what I consider one of the biggest leaps of transparency at the agency, the release of draft circulation documents three weeks prior to the open meeting.  While this process has worked against us in a few instances, it has worked in our favor just as much.

Let’s not forget Pai’s work outside of radio including actions to address spoofed robocalls, the expansion of unlicensed broadband spectrum and the designation of 9-8-8 as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.  

Chairman Pai’s staff was very professional and took the issues that I had raised in proceedings very seriously and I wish them the best in their future endeavors.  Hopefully, they will remain with the Commission.

While some continue to hate on Pai because they don’t see the big picture, I will continue to criticize his actions on various controversial issues while giving him credit where credit is due. 

I echo the words of Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks by saying that while we did not always agree on policy, he should be congratulated on his many years of service to the FCC, both has a Commissioner during a Democrat majority and as Chairman during a Republican majority.

I wish Chairman Pai the best of luck with whatever life dishes out next.