The Federal Communications Commission's new chairman pledged today to perform "radical surgery" on the agency, proposing to scrap FCC rules and "unregulate" the telecommunicatins industry.
FCC Chairman Mark Fowler, in his first speech since joining the commission last month, did not cite specific rules he would roll back at the agency.
But Fowler outlined a communications deregulatory emphasis that is likely to be the basis of considerable controversy in the coming two years.
"Simply stated, we will eliminate all unnecessary regulations and policies," Fowler said. "These functions of the FCC need radical surgery.
"Without question there are rules and programs at the commission that are either anachronistic or otherwise irrelevant in light of changes in the technogical and social environment. The continued enforcement of pointless rules and policies imposes costs on business, discourages individual initiative and weighs down the government."
"The common thread that runs through these objectives like a bright, scarlet ribbon, is what I call -- perhaps ungrammatically -- 'unregulation.'" he said. r"Insofar as a regulatory philosophy of government, we shall not be moving toward 1984, but away from it."
Fowler's remarks were made here at the 1981 National Cable Television Association convention, the largest meeting ever held by the industry.
More than 15,000 people attended the convention, viewing 350 exhibits. The previous attendance record for the NCTA's convention was 9,000 set last year in Dallas.
Fowler's speech was enthusiastically received by representatives of the cable industry, even though the bulk of the regulations controlling cable television already have been lifted by the FCC.
Samuel Simon, executive director of the National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting, immediately charged that Fowler's remarks "reflect a fundamental misunderstanding as to the way the First Amendment operates with respect to broadcasting. Fowler seemingly has ignored the rights and concerns of the listening and viewing audience in setting his agenda for the coming term," Simon said. "Fowler has failed to demonstrate constitutionally protected rights of all citizens to gain access to the media."
Fowler, a Washington broadcasting attorney, said during his term all FCC regulations will undergo "the cold hard light of present-day realities.
"Rules or policies that do not withstand this searching scrutiny will be scrapped, junked and discarded." Fowler said the commission's first ojective would be to create "to the maximum event possible an unregulated, competitive marketplace environment for the development of telecommunications.
"I believe that consumer choice and entrepreneurial initiative should be emphasized over pervasive government control and direction," he said. "There is an unbearable arrogance, I think, when any agency acts as if it knows all about how individual technologies ought to operate and how they all should be made to fit into one grand, predesigned, regulatory scheme."
In regulating old and new communications services, Fowler said, the FCC must remain "sensitive" to the fact that "rules perhaps validly applied to one service may be inappropriately applied to another very different service."
Fowler was alluding to the problems faced by the changing and growing condition of the cable television industry. Fowler said new technologies such as computer telecommunication services and direct satellite broadcasting "makes it imperative" that regulatory policies governing conventional services are not necessarily applied to new ones.