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House Tweaks FCC Reform Bill to Accommodate New Chairs

House Energy and Commerce Committee members have agreed to
tweak an FCC reform bill so that it won't hit the a new FCC chairman too hard
before he ro she gets their FCC-legs, as it were.

In his opening statement for a two-day markup of the FCC
Consolidated Reporting Act of 2013
, Communications Subcommittee chairman
Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who supports the bill, said the FCC had expressed some
concerns that "under some circumstances" a new FCC chairman -- expected
to be Tom Wheeler, though it actually would not apply to him -- "could face a daunting timeline under the language of
this bill."

The bill, H.R. 2844, consolidates a number of FCC annual
reports, including on video competition and cable prices, into a single
biennial report. It has bipartisan support and is by far the more likely of two
FCC reform bills to make it to the President's desk.

Walden said he had met with ranking full committee member
Henry Waxman and subcommittee member Anna Eshoo, both California Democrats, and
they would be offering an amendment that would address those timing concerns.

According to a copy of the amendment, it would allow a chairman who comes in immediately before the due date--fourth quarter of an even year, will have until the first quarter of the next year to complete the portion of the report the chairman is responsible for.

It also clarifies that the bill doesn't change the FCC's authority to issue other reports.

The change would likely not affect Wheeler because the biennial reports would be due in even years and Wheeler is expected to take over by the end of 2013.

The committee is not yet marking up or voting on the other
FCC reform bill, the
FCC Process Reform Act
, on which there is yet no bipartisan agreement.

Both bills were favorably reported out of the
subcommittee last week, but with the clear signal from Democrats that they
still had major issues with the Process Reform Act, which would limit the
conditions the FCC could put on media mergers, something Democrats are very unlikely
to support. Both sides have agreed to continue to work on that bill, since both
sides agree that targeted process reform is needed.