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FCC: Public Meeting Items Not Covered Under FOIA

The AP reports that the FCC does not consider items it approves at its public meetings a finished work product that can be obtained through Freedom of Information Requests.

The AP should know. The news service says the FCC has denied its FOIA request for the item outlining the rules of the road for the 700 mHz auction last year.

The auction rules were approved by four of the five commissioners July 31, but when the AP asked to look at the documents, the FCC said no, arguing that it was not a finished product. The FCC regularly circulates items it approves at public meetings back to the commissioners and staff for final editorial changes, with the final order sometimes not coming out for months. In this case, the order came out fairly rapidly--Aug. 10.

AP wanted to see the document as it had been voted on and, before those "editorial privileges" were given, arguing that since the commissioners had voted on it, it was "post-decisional," otherwise, the public meeting and the vote "would be meaningless."

But a unanimous FCC disagreed, saying that what they are voting on is a draft, subject to changes--that must be approved by all the commissioners--and so was "predecisional," a process common to other agencies.

"The July 31, 2007 document was a draft generated as part of the continuing process of agency decision-making," THE AP quotes the FCC as saying in its denial of the FOIA request, "whereas the publicly-released document reflects the Commission's final deliberations and editorial changes," the decision reads. "This practice is consistent with the practice of other agencies as confirmed by the courts."