House Communications Subcommittee Begins Markup of FCC Reform Bills

The House Communications Subcommittee began a two-day markup of FCC reform bills Tuesday with the signal that no reform will likely get done.

As with many issues on Capitol Hill these days, the FCC reforms look to be the victims of continued partisan differences.

Republicans lauded the reforms, which are contained in HR 3909, a Republican-backed bill that passed in the Communications subcommittee, as a necessary addition to process reforms already undertaken by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

While Republicans and Democrats are in general agreement on one of the reforms -- allowing more than two commissioners to meet outside of public meetings -- the inclusion of that in a single bill with Republican-backed measures appears to doom it as well.

That was the take from ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who said he had wanted the two issues separated so the bipartisan change could actually pass. After Republicans rejected that, he said, the prospects of the bill's passage were essentially doomed, calling the markup scheduled to continue Tuesday at 10 a.m. a squandered opportunity.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) seconded that. He said that crippling the FCC was not the way to reform it, though he agreed it needed reforming. Dingell said that rather than working on bills to create jobs or otherwise help constituents, the majority was wasting time with a bill that won't be taken up by the Senate or passed by the President.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) gave a shout-out to HR 3909, which was backed by Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). "Mr. Walden's FCC Process Reform Act [takes] the best ideas from both sides of the aisle," said Upton. "President Obama and his Jobs Council recommended that independent agencies conduct cost-benefit analyses. Former Commissioner Copps recommended improving deliberations among Commissioners. State commissions recommended more transparency in the FCC's rulemaking process. And small businesses requested shot clocks so they know when their petitions will be acted on. The FCC Process Reform Act accomplishes all these recommendations and more."

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.