Genachowski Still Wants Dish Item Voted by Year's End
Says media ownership item will be finished "as fast as we can"
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/30/2012 12:57:18 PM
Asked at a press conference about the Dish item, which the chairman has circulated for a vote by the other commissioners, the chairman said that if he did succeed in getting it voted by then it would be "by far the fastest the commission has ever resolved a rulemaking like this," but added: "We are still committed to getting this done by the end of the year."
According to a sources familiar with the vote tally, the chairman has not yet voted his own item, with only Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel having cast a vote.
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen was reportedly at the commission Thursday to pitch the chairman and others on why he was unhappy that, as part of the proposal, the FCC was making it incumbent upon Dish and others to prevent interference with an adjacent, currently unused, spectrum band (the H band) that the FCC plans to auction, also for wireless broadband. Dish and the chairman's office have been in a bit of a war of words over the issue, with a spokesman for the chairman saying that "in arguing that the Commission should destroy the value of the H block [Dish says it is proposing nothing of the sort], Dish is seeking to take a public asset potentially worth billions of dollars and turn it into a private windfall."
Dish originally sought a waiver of the rules a year and a half ago because it said it wanted to launch a 4G wireless service, but the FCC put that waiver on hold while it teed up the broader rule change, part of an effort to free up more spectrum for wireless broadband across the board.
The chairman has been also been under fire from minority and anti-consolidation groups over another item being circulated among commissioners -- rather than slated for a vote at a public meeting: the media ownership rule changes. They argue the FCC is rushing to a vote before it has thoroughly vetted the rule changes' impact on diversity.
Asked whether he still planned to have that voted out by the end of the year, or was considering delaying the proceeding for public comments, as the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council has requested, Genachowski pointed out that the quadrennial review of ownership rules proceeding had started in 2010 with a notice of inquiry, on which it received substantial comment. He said the commission had already heard from a diverse set of stakeholders, had held six public hearings, more than 10 studies released, and commented on.
He said the FCC had not made any decisions -- the item has been circulated but not yet voted.
But asked directly whether the item would be voted on by year's end, which he has said in the past was his goal, the chairman was not as definitive as he was with the Dish item. "We have an obligation as a commission to move forward with each of these reviews as fast as possible and we are going to move as a commission as fast as we can."
Genachowski was asked why he was not slating the Dish or Media Ownership for public votes, rather than on circulation. Minority groups and others have raised the same issue about the ownership vote. He suggested it was nothing out of the ordinary, and that in either forum the items got the same care and handling. "We do both major and minor items in meetings and on circulation. The process is the same, open and transparent...In each of those proceedings we have had notices, opportunities for comment, many meetings subject to ex partes, and we make the decision in each case about how best to efficiently make our decisions and do our work."
He did not elaborate on how it made the decision in these particular cases, however.
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