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How Ajit Pai Is Screwing Us (No, Not That, Another Way)

By Dan Hamamura | Politics | December 15, 2017 |

By Dan Hamamura | Politics | December 15, 2017 |

Hey, remember the FCC Chairman with the punchable face?

Yes, that’s the one. You may also know him as Ajit Pai, Friend of Telecom, or He Who Dances With Pizzagate Theorists.

Pai (along with the two other Republican FCC Commissioners) decided on Thursday, in his infinite limited Verizon-sponsored wisdom that more control of the internet needed to be placed in the hands of our most trustworthy corporate overlords: cable and telecom companies. After all, they would certainly never abuse their power like they did a few years ago, which is what led to the whole rule change in the first place.

Amazingly, that’s not all the Punchable Face did.

Because he ALSO launched a review period for the TV Station Ownership Cap, a rule which currently means that no one company can own television stations in more than 39% of all broadcast markets. In doing so, it begins the process to potentially raise (or completely remove) the cap, despite the fact that in defending the vote, another (Republican) commissioner, Michael O’Rielly, stated that most companies are well below the threshold, so it’ll have a limited real-world impact.

Ah, except, of course, for our friends at Sinclair.

You remember Sinclair Broadcasting? Owns a lot of television stations? Cut a special deal with Jared Kushner during the election to “ensure fair coverage” run propaganda for them? If you don’t remember them (and have eighteen minutes), allow John Oliver to gently remind you, because, as usual, John Oliver and his team of researcher/psychic hybrids were on this back in July:

Anyway, Sinclair, who just HAPPENS to have run positive Trump coverage across the country last election, and just HAPPENS to force their news stations to run segments featuring disgraced White House castoffs like Boris Epshteyn shilling for Trump, just HAPPENS to be trying to buy Tribune Media, which, if it were approved, just HAPPENS to put them a smidge over the 39% cap.

By 33%. Because the combined company would own stations covering 72% of the country.

Pai, of course, denies that this review is about one company. And you know what, he’s right.

Because the other company poised to benefit the most? Why, none other than Fox and Rupert Murdoch, who just HAPPEN to already be operating near the 39% cap, and just HAPPEN to be (potentially) flush with cash after agreeing to sell some of their toys. Cash they might just spend on some new local TV stations.

But sure, this definitely won’t have much real-world impact.

The good news is that this only begins the review period, and does not (yet) represent an actual change, except, of course, we saw what happened with the net neutrality review period, which was replete with fraud. But you know, the fun kind of fraud, like dead people commenting in favor of the repeal.

That wasn’t good news. Let me try again.

The ACTUAL good news, if there is any, is that this cap was originally put in place by Congress, which means there is a legal argument that can (and will) be made that the cap can only be changed by Congress. And if there’s one thing we all know Congress is great at, it’s not actually getting anything done.

So… here’s to congressional inaction?

It may be our only hope.

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Dan is the Comedy Editor and Podjiba Host. You can listen to him scream into the void on Twitter, or listen to him host the weekly TV podcast Podjiba.