GOP Hammers FCC Process Under Wheeler

Look for House Republicans to take aim at FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's FCC oversight during Thursday's hearing on a trio of bills that would reform those processes.

That is according to the background memo for the hearing, in which they say that under Wheeler's watch, "a number of process failings and procedural irregularities have come to light that not only prevent the public from meaningfully interacting with the Commission, but have prevented the Commissioners themselves from making informed decisions."

Many of those are based on complaints by the Republican commissioners, who have complained about FCC processes and not getting some information in a timely fashion, or having their input marginalized.

Specifically, they point to 1) the FCC's March 2014 Media Bureau decision under delegated authority to "change longstanding policy" on approving TV station sales involving sharing agreements; 2) removing a public notice related to the AWS-3 auction and resubmitting it on delegated authority, which meant members did not get to vote on it; 3) the plan to grant the Grain Management waiver on delegated authority before deciding to put it out for a vote, a reversal that the committee says FCC documents show came only after two commissioners challenged its release on delegated authority; 4) the charge by two commissioners that they did not get the final version of the FCC's initial Open Internet NPRM (May 2014) until after other commissioners were given that information; 5) releasing the state of the wireless industry report and a petition to regulate cellular data roaming rates on delegated authority; and 6) alleged delays in providing information from the chairman's office requested by a commissioner until the day before a vote.

The bills would: 1) require the FCC to publish the text of any action it wants to vote on within 24 hours of being circulated, or 21 days before a vote; 2) require that the text of regulations be published online within 24 hours of being adopted; and 3) "the Commission to identify and describe all items to be adopted by Commission staff on delegated authority to increase the public’s awareness of the FCC’s day-to-day decisions."

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.