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Eshoo, Pallone Will Oppose FCC Reform Bill

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, has signaled she can accept an FCC reform bill with a delay on a provision letting more than two FCC commissioners meet outside of public meetings, but can't accept it if it includes Republican-backed amendments she has already said she opposes.

That came in prepared text for her opening statement for a markup of H.R. 2583, the FCC Process Reform Act in the House Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday (June 3). Eshoo had been a co-sponsor of the bill, but wanted her name off it, said one committee source, to avoid having to vote against her own bill, which has the Republican votes to be amended to include their proposals.

Those include requiring the FCC to publish texts of draft decisions when they are circulated (customarily three weeks before a vote), to publish its decisions within 24 hours of a vote, and to publish 48 hours beforehand for decisions granted on delegated authority.

Eshoo said while she continued to support the underlying bill, even with the delay on commissioners meeting, she also suggested the above requirements were essentially poison pills.

"What I cannot support are attempts to stack this bill with partisan amendments that have the effect of tying the FCC in knots. Proposed under the guise of improved agency transparency and accountability, what these bills actually do is prevent the FCC from being fast, efficient and transparent," she said.

"After four years of debating FCC process reform, the Committee can take one of two routes. If the Majority wants to offer its partisan amendments, Democrats will oppose final passage and this bill will once again fail to become law. Alternatively, we can adopt the Democratic substitute amendment which incorporates the areas of bipartisan agreement into the underlying bill and join together in urging the Senate to expeditiously pass the FCC Process Reform Act," she added.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the full committee, concurred.

"While I support H.R. 2853 in its current form, I have been clear that I cannot support the other Republican drafts I anticipate will be added as amendments during markup," Pallone said. "Experts have said, quite simply, that it would result in confusion, litigation, and delay.  So I will oppose those bills and any final bill that includes its provisions."

The Republicans support the Democratic amendments, so an alternative would be for them to vote on the base bill without the Republicans amendments, which would be bipartisan, and then vote separately on the Republican proposals. They almost certainly have the votes to pass them.

Also look for the Democrats to try and amend to the base bill legislation mandating that the FCC require more detailed on-air disclosures from the funders of political ads.

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.