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House Communications Subcommittee to Mark Up FCC Reforms

The House Communications Subcommittee next week plans to hold a markup on a number—at least four, maybe more—of FCC process reform bills.

It has already held a hearing on a trio of Republican-backed bills that would require the FCC to publish drafts of items being circulated to other commissioners.

The Republican-backed reform bills would require the commission to list the items that have been approved at the bureau level on delegated authority, to publish the drafts of rulemakings when they are circulated to the other commissioners by the chairman's office before a vote, and to publish rules the same day they are voted on.

Also on the docket will be reintroduction of a fourth bill, discussion draft of the FCC Process Reform Act, a broader bipartisan bill introduced in the last Congress. It includes allowing more than two commissioners to meet outside of public meetings, something ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), co-sponsor of the bill, has long pushed for.

The "maybe more" is because the subcommittee is holding a hearing Friday (May 15) on at least three Democrat-backed bills that were offered up partly in response to that Republican legislative activity, plus the process reform discussion draft.

The Democratic-backed bills would:

1. "[R]equire the FCC to report quarterly to Congress and to post on the FCC website data on the total number of decisions pending categorized by Bureau, the type of request, and how long the requests have been pending. The report also includes a list of pending Congressional investigations and their cost to the agency."

2. "[R]equire the Chairman to post the Commission’s internal procedures on the FCC website and update the website when the Chairman makes any changes."

3. "[R]equire the FCC to coordinate with the Small Business Administration and issue recommendations to improve small business participation in FCC proceedings."

There is also a fourth bill, introduced by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), new to the committee, that would direct the FCC to require the on-air sponsorship identifications on TV and radio political ads from PACs and nonprofits to better identify the actual funders of those ads.

It is unclear which of the Democrat offerings will be marked up next week, or whether some bills could be merged into others, perhaps the reintroduced process reform bill.

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.