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Formerly Bipartisan FCC Reform Bill Lacks Dems

The House Energy & Commerce Committee will take up a formerly bipartisan FCC process reform bill Wednesday with Democrats no longer on board, according to House Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

He said he hoped Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, would "rethink her position." According to Walden, she is planning to introduce her own version of the bill that includes three Democratic bills and a key change. Separately,

One of Eshoo's primary problems with the bill is that it delays allowing more than two FCC commissioners to meet outside of public meetings until other reforms in the bill are already in place.

Walden pointed out in a contentious Subcommittee markup on the reform bills that the delay had been part of the bill when it passed the House unanimously last Congress, and felt he had an agreement with Eshoo on the provision.

But Democrats also have issues with Republican amendments, including one that would require the FCC to make public decisions being made on delegated authority 48 hours before the actions were taken and one that would require it to publish drafts of proposed decisions before they are voted. Democrats have said that latter proposal stemmed from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's decision not to publish a draft of his Title II order, which House Republicans had pressed for. Walden says the proposed reform predates that.

Walden has said those proposals would not be "burdensome" on the FCC. "We are moving forward on these bills," he said, but "have not been able to get support from our Democratic colleagues," which he said puts them in the box of supporting continued secrecy at the FCC."

Late Tuesday, Eshoo signaled she could accept the base bill even with the sunshine delay, but not with the Republican amendments.

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.