WASHINGTON — During a House Communications Subcommittee markup of Federal Communications Commission process reforms Wednesday (May 20) there was a bit of a flare-up between subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) over how many decisions the agency made on delegated authority (rather than votes by the commission).
Walden and Eshoo offered up very different numbers. Eshoo said there were 950,000 such decisions last year, while Walden said there were 1,845. Both said they had gotten them from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler — Eshoo from his testimony at a hearing, Walden from a copy of a Wheeler letter following up on a March letter to the committee following up on some questions.
According to an FCC source on background, they were both right, though during the hearing there was some confusion and heated words over the dueling figures. Eshoo was suggesting that given the number of such items, the need to publish them all, and to wait 48 hours before they were decided, as a just-passed Republican-backed reform bill would require, could slow, not speed, the process and was of little net gain. Walden countered that there were only 1,845, not 950,000, though he also suggested that the decisions already had to be made public.
Eshoo's 950,000 number referred to the total number of items issued on delegated authority in 2014, which was in Wheeler's written testimony from the April 30 hearing.
The 1,845 number from Wheeler's response to questions refers to the number of delegated authority items that were published in the FCC Record and given a DA (delegated authority) identification number. Bureau chiefs have the discretion over whether to publish a delegated authority decision, based on factors including whether it is an issue of broad public attention or whether the FCC will need to cite in in the future.
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.
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