Matthew Berry Decries FCC 'Divisiveness'

Matthew Berry, chief of staff to FCC Republican commissioner Ajit Pai, took aim at FCC process — in particular, current process — at an American Enterprise Institute forum in Washington Wednesday.

He said he has worked in the FCC under a number of chairmen — including Kevin Martin and Julius Genachowski — and things could be far better these days in terms of collegiality and consensus.

He told an American Enterprise Institute policy forum audience he does not see an interest in doing the "hard work" of reaching a consensus on controversial issues, which takes a lot of effort. He says it is more about doing political math of "3 beats 2."

Minority commissioners Pai and Michael O'Rielly have complained publicly about not having their input or edits considered, and there have been a lot of 2-3 partisan votes. "In the last fifteen months, there have been more party-line votes at FCC meetings than there were under Chairmen [Kevin] Martin, [Michael] Copps, [Julius] Genachowski, and [Mignon] Clyburn combined," he said. "Time and time again, Republican offices have been willing to meet the Chairman’s Office more than halfway to reach consensus. But time and time again, our outstretched hand of compromise has been slapped away."

He said that includes the chairman's office rejecting edits from Republicans only to accept the same edits from Democrats, a point Pai made in an interview with C-SPAN last week.

Berry said the FCC is being run in an "extremely partisan and divisive manner."

“We are willing to compromise but not in a way that undermines core principles and objectives such as having concrete proposals in NPRMs, or making sure that schools have the broadband connections they need for 21st century education,” said an FCC official familiar with the thinking in the chairman's office, adding that the chairman has a general rule of accpeting all edits that improve items, even if the commissioner suggesting it ultimately dissents. They could not recall an instance where a suggestion from one commissioner was declined then accepted from another commissioner.

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.