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House Panel to Mark Up FCC Reform Bills

WASHINGTON — The House Communications Subcommittee has scheduled a May 20 markup for seven bills intended to reform Federal Communications Commission processes, including a trio of Democratic-backed bills that were the subject of an abbreviated hearing last week.

The bills include a discussion draft of the bipartisan FCC Process Reform Act and three Republican-backed bills: a bill that would require the agency to publish a list of items that are decided on delegated authority; one that that would “require the FCC to publish the draft of a rulemaking, order, report or any other action when it is circulated to the commissioners for a vote;” and a bill that would require the FCC to publish the text of new rules on the same day they are voted.

The Democratic-backed draft bills would require the FCC to report quarterly to Congress and on its website the total number of pending decisions by category, type or request and how long they have been pending; require the chairman to post international procedures on the Web site; and mandate that the FCC to coordinate with the Small Business Administration to help improve small-business participation in FCC proceedings.

The Democrats are looking for their bills to supplant the Republican efforts, which they argue could lead to legal challenges. The Republicans have signaled they support the Democratic drafts, but as additional safeguards, not substitutes.

Not on the schedule is a draft bill that would require the FCC to boost disclosures of the funders of political ads. That bill was also absent from last week's hearing on the Democratic drafts, an omission lamented by Democratic committee leaders.

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.