Reps. Introduce Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act

If Federal Communications Commission commissioner Michael Copps starts singing "Let the Sunshine In,"
it won't be a senior 60's moment.

Reps Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) have introduced a bill, the Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act, that would allow more than two commissioners to meet privately outside of public meetings.

The bill would allow three or more Commissioners to meet for "collaborative discussions," so long as no agency actions were taken at the meetings and so long as a member of each political party was a party to the discussions, which, in this case, would mean no meeting among the three Democrats making up the majority.

The FCC's sunshine rules currently prevent that, so negotiations on items and issues are often through staffers and e-mails. Copps has been a long and strong voice for allowing commissioners to reason together outside of public meetings.

"The FCC has the responsibility to tackle the nation's most pressing communications issues, from spectrum reform to universal service and public safety," said Eshoo in a statement. "But the Closed Meeting Rule prevents simple collaboration or discussion of these issues, outside of a formal setting. I'm pleased to introduce legislation to modify this restrictive rule to promote greater discussion among the five FCC commissioners so they can benefit from each other's expertise and experience."

"I am thrilled that Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman John Shimkus, and Congressman Mike Doyle have introduced the Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act," said Copps in a statement. "If there is only one action we could take this year to reform the FCC, this should be it."

"The inability of Commissioners to get together and talk as a group makes zero sense," Copps said. "The statutory bar on more than two Commissioners talking together outside a public meeting has had pernicious and unintended consequences-stifling collaborative discussions among colleagues, delaying timely decision-making, discouraging collegiality and short-changing consumers and the public interest. For almost a decade I have seen first-hand and up close the heavy costs of this prohibition."

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.