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Clyburn Makes Moves toPlug Commission Leaks - Broadcasting & Cable

Clyburn Makes Moves toPlug Commission Leaks

Memo from FCC general counsel’s office gets tough on preventing disclosures of agenda
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jeggerton@nbmedia.com | @eggerton


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In the spirit of the Obama Administration’s aggressive pursuit of leakers, acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn has warned the other commissioners about leaking agenda info outside the building.


Why This Matters
The substance of the agenda items indicates in which regulatory direction the FCC is moving.

According to multiple sources, the FCC’s general counsel’s office circulated a memo around the building meant to discourage the leak of details about FCC agenda items. A spokesman for Clyburn declined comment or to make a copy of the memo available. According to sources, who either did not have a copy or declined to provide it, the memo advised staffers of the government rule against talking about non-public items, including agenda items, with outside parties.

Those outside the commission would include journalists, but sources at the FCC say the memo—though widely circulated—may have been particularly directed at the office of Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai over a particular, perceived, leak to industry lobbyists. Pai’s office had no comment.

While the law against leaking agenda items is clearly on the books, sometimes government officials feel there is a public interest in sharing what the FCC chair has proposed to be voted on.

Lips have appeared to get tighter over at the commission since Clyburn took over, but that is also a factor of there being only three commissioners, which means less cover for leaked information to journalists and others. For example, a “source close to a Republican commissioner” can only be close to the Republican commissioner. The FCC is currently at three members—two Dems, one Republican— down from five.

The memo was described as unusual by several FCC sources—“I’ve not seen one before,” said one staffer, and “troubling” by one former FCC official who asked not to be identified. It also rubbed some current FCC staffers the wrong way, though, they would not go on the record with their displeasure.

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