Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Religious Broadcasters Hear of 'New Day' At FCC

It is a “new day” in Washington, D.C., for broadcasters, legal experts said at Proclaim 17, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Orlando.

Two lawyers who specialize in broadcast law – Joseph Chautin, III and David Oxenford – provided encouragement regarding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during a 90-minute session March 1 on radio regulations in the new Trump administration.

“Things are changing,” said Oxenford, a lawyer with Washington, D.C.-based Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP,  and editor of the Broadcast Law Blog. “All the sacred cows that have been there forever are open to re-examination. All the stupid rules that have governed your actions that the FCC has adopted over the years, and every other agency in Washington has adopted over the years,” are up for reconsideration, he said.

“[N]othing is off the table,” Oxenford told the audience. “The FCC is really ready to listen to any rational explanation as to why particular rules are not needed anymore, why rules don’t make sense, why rules are just putting you through the motions of doing something without really accomplishing what its underlying goal is.”

Much of the optimism about the FCC – which oversees radio, television, satellite, and cable communications – is based on the new chairman, Ajit Pai. Named chairman by President Trump in January, Pai was an FCC lawyer for four years before President Obama appointed him as a commissioner in 2012.

Pai “is pro-broadcaster, meaning he is kind of a broadcast junkie,” said Chautin, a managing partner of Hardy, Carey, Chautin & Balkin, LLP in the New Orleans area. “He grew up on AM radio [in Parsons, Kansas] and has been really a part of the AM revitalization efforts.”

He is a “rare combination of skill and someone who sees broadcast issues that we frankly haven’t seen at the FCC in some time,” Chautin said.

After becoming chairman, Pai quickly reversed some decisions made late in the Obama administration, Chautin told broadcasters. He also started a new transparency initiative, making matters available to the public at the same time he circulates them to other commissioners, Chautin said.

Republicans hold a 2-1 majority on the FCC, and two new commissioners could join the panel by this summer, Chautin told session participants.

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