It’s now official: Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has been designated Chairman — and not interim Chairman — by President Donald Trump.
The move was widely expected, and allows the new administration to appoint a pair of Commissioners. One will be a Republican. The other, while traditionally a Democrat, could be filled by anyone who is not a registered Republican.
In a short statement released late afternoon Monday by the FCC, Pai said, “I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States for designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”
Ahead of the official announcement of Pai’s naming as permanent FCC Commissioner, the NAB was practically gleeful over the move.
“Without qualification, NAB supports President Trump’s selection of Ajit Pai to the position of FCC chairman,” said NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith. “Pai is a known quantity who brings integrity, good humor and a fierce intellect to the Commission. We look forward to working with him and his colleagues on a pro-growth FCC agenda that benefits tens of millions of Americans who rely on free broadcast radio and TV for the most popular content, credible news, and lifeline local emergency alerts.”
HOUSE, SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEES SALUTE PAI
House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) late Monday issued a joint statement welcoming Pai.
“Today we welcome a new era of leadership and decision making at the FCC,” Walden and Blackburn said. “Commissioner Pai’s expertise on the issues has been well documented and we’re looking forward to working with him to advance conservative, thoughtful solutions at the FCC.”
Later in the evening, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) singled out Pai for his “intellectual rigor, passion for innovative ideas and technologies, and adherence to the letter and spirit of the law. I enjoy his can-do attitude, admire his principled transparency, and share his commitment to rural communities. I look forward to working with him as he steps into his new role.”
MMTC SET TO HOST NEW CHAIRMAN
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) “warmly congratulates FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on his reported selection as chairman of the agency,” President/CEO Kim Keenan said late Friday.
In fact, Pai will make one of his first speaking appearances as Commissioner at the FCC Commissioners’ Breakfast at the MMTC’s eighth annual Broadband and Social Justice Summit on Feb. 7.
“Since becoming a commissioner in 2012, Commissioner Pai has been on the right side of a number of issues supported by MMTC, including a host of practical approaches to advancing diversity and inclusion, relaxation of the broadcast foreign investment rules, and authorization of FM translators for struggling AM stations,” Keenan said. “His proposals for incentivizing broadband investment in underserved communities are grounded in the best work of [former NFL quarterback and late Republican politician] Jack Kemp. Moreover, he has demonstrated a willingness to consider moving away from ‘silos’ in communication industries toward platform neutrality – a theme that originated with former FCC Chairman Bill Kennard. This outlook has the potential to open the doors to ownership opportunities for people of color.”
Keenan continued, “Pai has demonstrated that he is an innovative, knowledgeable, and fair Commissioner whose door is open to hear all sides of an issue. We look forward to working with him as we continue our 30-year mission of promoting policies that advance diversity in media, telecom, and tech ownership; close the digital divide; and ensure equal access to opportunity for all Americans.”
Pai is the senior Republican on the Commission. He was nominated to the FCC by President Barack Obama and was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on May 7, 2012.
Pai is also an avid Tweeter, and his retweet on Saturday of a post referring to him as FCC Commissioner all but confirmed his ascension.
COMMISSIONERS CHIME IN ON NEW CHAIRMAN
Mignon Clyburn, the lone Democrat on the Commission and a one-time interim FCC Chairman, congratulated Pai on being named FCC Chairman. “Ajit is bright, driven and committed to bringing connectivity to all Americans,” she said. “I am hopeful that we can come together to serve the public interest by supporting competition, public safety, and consumer protection.”
Meanwhile, fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly offered his “sincere congratulations and best wishes to my friend and colleague.”
He said, “His thoughtful approach, deep knowledge base, and sense of humor have been great assets to the Commission, and it makes sense that President Trump hand-picked him to carry out the new administration’s broad vision for the agency. I know the Commission will thrive under his leadership, and I look forward to working with him and his team to tackle the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that will present themselves.”