Dec 1, 2020 - Economy

Local news trade groups bid Ajit Pai farewell

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Local news groups will miss Ajit Pai when he leaves his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on January 20.

Why it matters: Despite the fact that the Trump administration broadly was seen as having a hostile view towards the press, Pai was considered by several trade groups as a loyal supporter of local news.

Details: Under the Trump administration, the FCC and Chairman Pai fought to deregulate traditional media companies, including TV and radio broadcasters, and newspapers, so that they could better compete with technology giants.

  • Most notably, he ended a decades-old media cross-ownership ban between newspaper publishers and broadcasters that inhibited consolidation within the industry. (The outcome of that ban is still being debated in court.)
  • Pai was considered a champion especially for radio, which has taken a hit thanks to the rise of streaming.
  • He approved lots of consolidation, both in the wireless market through approval of the blockbuster T-Mobile-Sprint merger, and in the local broadcasting space.
  • He initially supported a merger between Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media, but later voted to block it after was revealed that Sinclair deceived the FCC.

What they're saying: "We view Chairman Pai as a very thoughtful and forward-thinking leader for the FCC," News Media Alliance president David Chavern told Axios. 

  • "He was willing to look at the media market as it actually exists today and make clear-eyed decisions about how to foster a more vibrant system going forward."

"Chairman Pai has been a champion of free and local broadcasting since he joined the FCC," the National Association of Broadcasters said in a statement.

  • "His fair, thoughtful approach to regulation led to many common-sense reforms that were long overdue."

What's next: Republicans are expected to lose their commissioner majority at the FCC under the Biden administration.

  • Jessica Rosenworcel, the senior Democrat on the commission, is considered a leading candidate for Pai's job.
  • Rosenworcel has been an outspoken voice against many of the deregulatory measures that Pai championed.
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