Thursday, March 9, 2017

FCC: Dems Grill Pai During Congressional Testimony

Democrats grilled the new Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday, at his first hearing before  the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee since taking over the agency.

In his first month on the job, Chairman Ajit Pai has quickly begun rolling back a number of Obama-era initiatives and regulations, and faced tough questions from Dems at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

Ajit Pai
Topping the agenda, was Pai's decision not to conduct an FCC review of the $85 billion proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger.

According to The Hill, Pai decided a review was not necessary because the companies were not transferring any broadcast licenses in the deal. The Justice Department will still conduct its own antitrust review.

But when pressed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) on that decision, Pai said he would be willing to have the agency's lawyers review his conclusion and share their findings with the committee.

Pai dodged questions about whether he agrees with President Trump’s views of the media. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) asked Pai if he shares Trump’s belief that the press is an “enemy of the American people.”

Pai responded by saying that he didn’t want to “wade into the larger political debates,” but that he believes “every American enjoys the First Amendment protections guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Ajit Pai told the committee that the FCC will need to look into the decades-old cross-ownership rules, where the same entity is barred in many cases from owning TV, radio and newspaper outlets in the same market.

“One of my concerns, especially in smaller markets, is that as newspapers and broadcast TV and radio stations are struggling and a lot of them are going out of business, are there ways we can help them stay in business and do what they do best which is to cover local news,” said Pai. “If it is more efficient to collect news together and distribute it on different platforms, that could help them stay in business and provide a vital source of information.”

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