Sen. Markey: GOP 'Forced' FCC to Pull Items

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) slammed Republicans for "forcing" the FCC to pull four items off the agenda for the Nov. 17 public meeting, which was essentially all the major business for that meeting.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler scrapped the votes after Republican leadership in the House and Senate Commerce Committee told him to ramp down in the wake of the election, citing the precedent of former FCC chairman Kevin Martin in 2008 when Democratic leaders of the House and Senate Commerce Committee sent a similar letter advising him to do likewise.

The items included a vote on a March proposal to increase the number of hours of visually-described programming on the broadcast and cable networks and expand the number of networks the requirement applies to, which Republican commissioners have argued is beyond the FCC's authority.

Related: NCTA Says FCC Can't Expand Number of Video Described Nets

“Blind and visually impaired individuals will suffer because Republicans and their allies on the Commission will not allow a vote to expand the amount of video-described programming available," said Markey, although there is a Democratic majority and the FCC is an independent agency, so Wheeler could have kept the items on the agenda and approved them without Republican support, as he has done with numerous items, if he had not wanted to pull them and had the votes of his own party to pass them.

Related: MPAA: FCC Exceeding Authority in Video Description Expansion

The Republican members of the commission had joined with the legislators to call for the items to be pulled.

“Republican lawmakers should stop their obstruction and support Commission action on those pro-consumer, pro-accessibility measures without delay," Markey said. The items are still on circulation, which means those three Democrats could still vote to approve any or all of them.

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.