FCC 'Crams' April Meeting With Votes

The FCC late Friday released its tentative agenda for the April 27 public meeting and it will be a busy meeting, with votes scheduled on Universal Service Reform, noncommercial station fundraising, a regulatory framework for allowing TV stations to share channels as part of the reclamation of spectrum for incentive auctions, as well as the already reported disclosure rulemaking.

Broadcasters have been looking for some guidance on how the Federal Communications Commission is going to repack broadcasters who chose not to give up spectrum.

The FCC has also teed up a Notice of Proposed rulemaking for reforming the contribution mechanism for Universal Service Fund, in which telecom companies pay into a fund to support service -- phone and, increasingly, broadband -- to hard-to-reach areas and those hard-to-justify business models.

The goal of the reform, which follows last year's reform of the distribution side, is to reduce the administrative burden on industry and the FCC, avoid arbitrage of the system -- making similar services subject to similar contributions -- and update the calculations of the payments to reflect a changing marketplace. The contributions had been based on a landline phone dominated world going increasingly wireless and broadband.

The noncommercial item, according to the FCC, is a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on whether noncommercial stations should be able to conduct on-air fundraising for third-party nonprofits that interrupts regular programming.

Also on the docket for the April 27 meeting is a combination order and rulemaking proposal on unauthorized charges on phone bills ("cramming").

It is only a tentative agenda, so items could be pulled up until the day of the meeting, or dropped if they are voted by the commissioners on circulation beforehand.

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.