Dems Wary of Some FCC Reform Proposals
Decision making process would be weakened, FCC's independence in jeopardy
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/12/2011 2:49:21 PM
That is according to a staff memo for a Friday (May 13) FCC reform hearing in the subcommittee. The Republican draft had included a raft of reforms they said "could be considered."
The Democrats saw big problems with a number of them, while pointing out in their memo that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had already taken numerous steps to reform the agency.
The Democrats argue that many of those possible reforms go beyond requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act and could reduce the regulatory flexibility. "With respect to elements of the regulatory process such as comment periods, notice approaches (e.g., Notice of Inquiry vs. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), the degree of cost-benefit analysis, and timeframes for action"--those were all among the Republican's consideration list. That flexibility, the Democrats argue, "may assist the FCC in carrying out its core responsibilities under the Communications Act."
For example, while the Republicans, in their own memo, suggested considering statutory minimums for comment periods, saying it "could produce better decisions and shield the FCC from pressure to rush to judgment."
The Democrats counter that "requiring the FCC to provide at least 30 days for the submission of comments and 30 days for reply comments may undermine the agency's flexibility to use shorter or longer comment and reply deadlines in order to fulfill other statutory mandates...In addition, routine Commission matters such as fee proceedings and refreshing the record in an open proceeding may not require such extensive comment periods."
While the Republicans gave FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski a passing shout out for taking reform measures, the Democrats spent much of their memo highlighting those reforms, including:
- Publishing a weekly report on the status of pending proceedings and publicizing potential topics for future open meetings;
- Including more details on proposed regulations in notices of proposed rulemakings and making available more promptly the text of decisions adopted at open FCC meetings;
- Expanding the options for public input, by supplementing its traditional notice and comment rulemaking process with public forums and workshops;
- Expanding use of social media methods, and a newly designed web site; and
- Expanding the information being made available to the public, including in ways that permit the public to make easier use of the data."
All the commissioners but exiting Meredith Attwell Baker are slated to testify at the hearing Friday.
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