Wheeler Creates Process Task Force

The FCC will create a new task force to look into the "legitimate process concerns" raised by Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly.

That was the message from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to a House FCC oversight hearing Thursday and came before the Republican commissioners were able to start leveling their process reform complaints—all five commissioners were in attendance.

O'Rielly has leveled numerous complaints about how the FCC is run, including at a Senate hearing this week, indicating that too much FCC business is conducted on delegated authority and that item language should be published before a vote.

While Wheeler pointed out that there were fewer decisions on delegated authority in this commission than in any of the previous 15 years, he said O'Rielly had raised some legitimate concerns, and that he had already directed that a task force be formed, with each commissioner getting to name a member, that would look at how other similarly situated agencies conduct business, with an eye toward improving the FCC's processes.

The task force will be headed by Diane Cornell, special counsel to the Office of the Chairman, who headed up an early Wheeler effort to identify FCC reforms.

Commissioner Pai said he welcomed the chairman’s announcement.

In his opening statement, commissioner O'Rielly echoed his criticisms of the process, including delegated authority, without comment on the chairman's task force announcement.

O'Rielly did comment on the task force afterwards in a statement.

"I welcome the Chairman’s interest in the FCC process reform ideas I have put forward and invitation to engage, through the newly-announced task force, in making them a reality. The Commission could greatly benefit from key reforms enhancing transparency and accountability. My staff will actively participate in the task force, and I will closely follow its activities."

"To be clear, the standard for the task force must be what is in the best interest of the American people and promotes a fair, open and efficient Commission process, not what other agencies happen to be doing. With this goal in mind, the Commission will surely be able to set a good government model other agencies can emulate."

He also encouraged Congress on its separate reform path. "The task force should complement – not substitute for – Congress’ effort to move process reform legislation."

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.