Dems Seek FCC Record-Keeping Compliance Records

In a letter to the FCC chair Ajit Pai, House Energy & Commerce Committee chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Communications Subcommittee chair Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) have asked for information on how the "retention and disposition" of electronic communications," suggesting the FCC may be violating the Federal Records Act.

A spokesperson for Pai declined comment on that latest oversight foray from House Democrats pledged to flex those oversight muscles after what they argue was rather flabby oversight by Republicans.

Pallone and Doyle point to updates in record-keeping rules for the digital age, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)/National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) directive that all federal agencies manage all email records in an electronic format by 2016.

Among their requests are for all FCC records of how they are implementing the new electronic record-keeping requirement.

The issue implicates, among other things, how responsive the FCC has been or can be to FOIA requests from journalists and others. One of the things the legislators want to know is if the FCC has "searched all electronic communications retained pursuant to FRA in response to FOIA requests made between January 2017 (when Pai took over) and today, and, if not, why not."

“Transparency, openness, and honesty are all bedrock principles of a functioning government responsive to its people," the legislators said. "The Committee seeks to ensure the agencies under its jurisdiction uphold these principles. Since NARA has yet to approve the FCC’s approach to records management, we are concerned that the FCC may not be managing its electronic records in accordance with federal law and guidance, potentially thwarting the public from an understanding of the FCC’s decision-making process and how it conducts its business.... The American public should have confidence that the FCC is properly capturing and archiving its own communications.”

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.