Conyers, GOP Reps, Call for FCC Release of Set-Top Text

Democratic Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee,  has joined with House Republican leaders to call for the FCC to release the text of its set-top proposal before it votes on it. An FCC spokesperson said that the chairman does not release items until after the final vote.

That request for the text came in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Friday (Sept. 16) and followed similar calls by Senate Republicans in an FCC oversight hearing this week.

Before a vote such items are considered works in progress--they can still be adjusted and edited--and Wheeler clearly signaled this week that the set-top proposal was not done.

Also calling for release of the proposal text were Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Communications Subcommittee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Conyers is ranking member on Judiciary

In the letter, they say that the proposal would benefit from a public vetting and, absent that, it is hard to know what the FCC is planning or its impact.

Republican members of the commission, notably Ajit Pai, have also called for releasing the document.

"Without further delay, we request that you release the text of the proposal," they said, which "raises issues of significance to both of our Committees." They said they also wanted stakeholders to have "time to meaningfully discuss the implications of the proposal."

Senate and House Democrats have increasingly expressed their concerns and called for more deliberation--Wheeler has scheduled a vote for Sept. 29--though Sens. Ed Markey (D-<ass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), early backers of a set-top reboot, are solidly behind the chairman's proposal.

Wheeler has said he is willing, and expects, to continue to hash out the item with his colleagues, which will be necessary since the two Republicans are opposed and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel has questioned the FCC's authority to get into the app standards-setting business.

"Consistent with long-standing FCC procedure, the Chairman does not release an item under consideration prior to the final vote of all Commissioners," said FCC press secretary Kim Hart. "As Chairman Wheeler has said, releasing the text of the order prior to the vote would be a radical departure from established procedure and could undermine the crucial deliberation process between Commissioners. 

"We continue to have productive conversations with all stakeholders about Chairman Wheeler’s apps-based proposal to ensure consumers have the options they deserve – and that Congress mandated – to access the programming they already pay for."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.