FCC’s O'Rielly Proposes Delegated Authority Modifications

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly is reintroducing his proposal to modify the FCC's delegated authority, under which bureaus rather than commissioners issue decisions on their own authority, to allow for two commissioners to raise those items to commission-level votes.

In a blog post, O'Rielly said that while FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had not been receptive, he would try again under the new management of fellow Republican chairman Ajit Pai.

That could likely be the case given that Pai has complained in the past about not getting to vote on decisions released by bureaus under delegated decisions, though that was under a Democratic chairman, and reversed some made in the last days of his predecessor's tenure.

Initially O'Rielly proposed giving any commissioner the ability to "un-delegate" any bureau item and call for a vote by the full commission, but he moved away from that, though he said the "compromise" still did not pass muster with Wheeler.

O'Rielly's proposal is to give commissioners 48 hours to review an item being decided by a bureau under delegated authority, then raise it to a commission-level decision if at least two commissioners request it.

"Quite frankly, if a Commissioner can't convince at least one other to join their cause, we should move forward posthaste," he wrote.

So that there would not be undue delay caused by heading off a bureau-level decision, O'Rielly is recommending that the commission have to vote such items within seven calendar days or five business days, though he says he could live with less than that.

To insure it could not become a delaying tactic, if the item were not voted by that deadline, he said, it should then either be deemed approved by the chairman or sent back to the bureau for release on delegated authority.

"Fixing the overuse of delegated authority should be high on our list of priorities as the new Commission examines internal process reform. Hopefully, my proposal finds support from those seeking to improve the efficiency of the Commission’s procedures and those worried about improper constraints on the ability of the Commission to function," he wrote.

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.