Democrats Offer Own FCC Reform Package

In response to House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans' introduction of a trio of FCC reform bills they say promote transparency, Democrats on the committee have upped the ante with draft proposals they say would "keep" the FCC "fast, efficient, and transparent."

In contrast to the Republican proposals, which suggest they are corrections to transparency failures under the current FCC leadership, the Democrats praise FCC chairman Tom Wheeler for his "impressive strides to improve the agency’s internal procedures."

“The FCC must remain as agile as the industries it oversees,” said Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), in announcing the draft proposals. “The Democratic members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee have come together and put together a smart, commonsense plan to keep the FCC fast, efficient, and transparent. Our plan makes certain that the FCC stays a model of effective government.”

The Democratic-backed bills would:

1. "[R]equire the FCC to report quarterly to Congress and to post on the FCC website data on the total number of decisions pending categorized by Bureau, the type of request, and how long the requests have been pending. The report also includes a list of pending Congressional investigations and their cost to the agency."

2. Allow more than two commissioners to meet outside of public meetings, with proper transparency safeguards (the FCC Collaboration Act long-championed by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Communications subcommittee).

3. "[R]equire the Chairman to post the Commission’s internal procedures on the FCC website and update the website when the Chairman makes any changes."

4.  "[R]equire the FCC to coordinate with the Small Business Administration and issue recommendations to improve small business participation in FCC proceedings."

The Communications Subcommittee is holding an FCC process reform hearing Thursday (April 30).

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.