FCC Moves One Step Closer To The Paper Shredder


In the first 5-0 unanimous vote of the new FCC led by Chairman Ajit Pai, the Commission has given the green light to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would eliminate rules requiring broadcast radio and TV stations, along with cable entities, to keep paper copies of FCC rules.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was no longer skeptical of the proposal, while newly arrived Republican Brendan Carr was quite vocal of the need to modernize the FCC.

In the mid-1970s, around the time when the FCC’s cross-ownership rules were put into place, the Commission adopted rules requiring all TV stations, FM translators, FM booster stations and cable television relay station (CARS) licensees to maintain paper copies of Commission rules. The same goes for certain cable operators.

At the time, the rules were intended to ensure that such entities could access and stay familiar with the rules governing their operations.

Of course, much has changed since the days of Soul Train, and Chevy Chase’s impersonation of President Gerald Ford.

In his first statement since becoming an FCC Commissioner, Republican Brendan Carr noted, “This rule is a particular relic from the 1970s. Everything since then has been revolutionized. Everything is going online — including our rules.”

Carr’s support of the NPRM is tied to his support of a larger effort to modernize the FCC.

Meanwhile, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel made her return to a FCC Open Meeting, her first since December 2016, before she was forced to exit the Commission as Senate Democrats squabbled with Republicans over appointments and former Chairman Tom Wheeler declined to decide on his future until it was too late for Rosenworcel to take a months-long holiday.

Rosenworcel called it “an honor and a privilege to be back” at the Commission, and refrained from commenting on the NPRM, aside from saying, “I support it.”

Meanwhile, a jovial Chairman Ajit Pai was overheard chatting about National Football League games — but not the National Anthem kneel-down controversy that has consumed the U.S. press — with fellow Republican Michael O’Rielly minutes before starting the September Open Meeting.

Pai is a champion of FCC modernization and fully supports the NPRM, calling the paper rules “outdated and unnecessary.”

Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn had previously expressed some skepticism on an NPRM that relied on online storage and maintenance, rather than paper copies, of FCC requirements. Today, those concerns were no longer apparent, as she voiced support for the NPRM, bring bipartisan unanimity to the proposed rulemaking.

This rulemaking is part of the Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative that the FCC launched earlier this year “to reduce unnecessary regulation that can stand in the way of competition and innovation in media markets.”

The NPRM is shown in two dockets: MB Docket No. 17-231; and MB Docket No. 17-105.