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House Committee Seeks Records in FCC Probe

Mar 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is stepping up its probe of the Federal Communications Commission, suggesting its initial look at agency procedures found management faults.
The committee’s oversight and investigations panel is “investigating allegations from current and former FCC employees and other sources which we have reason to believe are credible,” the committee’s Democratic and Republican leaders said in a letter today to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin. “These allegations relate to management practices that may adversely affect the commission’s ability to discharge effectively its statutory duties and to guard against waste, fraud and abuse.”
The latest move steps up the potential problems posed by the probe for Mr. Martin, who seems to be one object of the committee’s ire. Although some of the panel’s questions were about events before Mr. Martin became chairman, the willingness of Republicans to sign on to the letter suggests bipartisan unhappiness with his tenure.
The oversight panel is headed by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and both he and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., had earlier raised questions about the transparency of some of the FCC’s procedures before the agency made decisions.
Today’s letter asked for records and notes from as far back as 2004. Most concerned FCC delays in moving forward with certain items; some concerned whether the FCC properly trained staff and had procedures assuring FCC staff complied with federal administrative procedures. It also asked about FCC staff reassignments.
The letter also sought information on specific FCC actions.
Among those mentioned was a decision to discard or change the conclusions to a 2004 report about the packaging and sale of video programming to the public. Also cited were decisions, made in preparing 10 scientific reports on the FCC’s media ownership study, to not recommend modifying the radio/TV cross ownership rule, the local TV ownership rule, the dual network rule and an FCC rule that gives lesser weight to UHF stations in determining how many stations a single company can own.
The latest letter also questioned how the FCC developed an analysis suggesting that 70% of the nation’s homes had access to cable and 70% of those with access were taking it. The controversial analysis was the basis for a proposal from Mr. Martin for the FCC to take over cable regulation.
Finally the letter asked for the non-public version of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General into allegations that several FCC media ownership studies were suppressed under former FCC Chairman Michael J. Powell because their conclusions conflicted with the FCC’s deregulatory approach. One study said local ownership led to more news on broadcast stations; another said loosening ownership regulations in 1996 led to a nearly 35% decrease in the number of radio station owners. The Inspector General’s investigation found no evidence of suppression and suggested data quality issues were responsible for the reports not being released.
An FCC spokeswoman said Wednesday it would cooperate with the request.
“We look forward to continuing to cooperate with the committee,” she said.

3 Comments

  1. I have to admit that although I disagree with the tactics of the FCC, it is true that, they are falling short. I’ve stated many times that the FCC is terrible to the entertainment industry and restricts it too much; however, it cannot be denied that, they are being less prudes, in a way that is outstanding, yet, you have some shows that are taking advantage of that and under the name of comdey and show crude episodes. But, the restriction is not the problem, the problem is the length of time it takes to say material is obsene. I mean, look at NYPD Blue, four years later they sue. Shouldn’t they stop this mess before it hits the airwaves. If they aren’t going to do their job in a timely efficient manner then, they should butt out and let art be.

  2. Excellent job.

  3. Great blog!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned 🙂

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