The House Energy & Commerce Committee is preparing to release its report on an investigation into the Federal Communications Commission this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.
A committee source confirmed that the plan was to release it this week, but would not confirm a day. A soruce says the report could be issued as early as 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who heads the investigative subcommittee that conducted the investigation, has telegraphed that it will be strongly critical of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. "The way FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has run the commission is not the way it is supposed to be run," said Bart Stupak (D-MI)
Stupak said there would likely not be hearings on the report, though some case studies could provide fodder for future hearings, he said. It could also provide fodder for a possible regulatory revamp of the commission by Congress, where Democrats and Republicans have both argued some updating of the regulatory process is called for in an era when putting media in different regulatory silos does not square with the increasingly merging media landscape.
Back in mid-November, Stupak's office said the report was expected to go out within the next two weeks. The investigation has been going on for a year. Stupak blamed the FCC for the delays: "You put out deadlines and they will drop 40,000 pages on you... Quite honestly, what has dragged out this one? The constant avoiding of deadlines, the dragging of feet, the refusal to voluntarily come in to testify, and they are trying to run out the clock out on us."
The FCC countered that it has been cooperating with the committee. Several weeks ago the committee said that it had tried, but failed, to get Martin to meet with them to talk about the findings. At the time, the chairman's office confirmed the meeting had not taken place, but a spokesman had not responded at press time about whether the meeting had ever taken place.
And while Stupak was very critical of Martin, sources say that the report does not find any legal or ethics violations.
The investigations subcommittee launched the formal investigation last January after complaints externally and internally about how items were brought to a vote, information that was leaking to some lobbyists and not to others, and complaints about Martin's resolve to vote on modifying the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership -- which passed Dec. 18 -- despite attempts to stop or delay the vote by members of FCC oversight committees in both Houses.
Martin defended the rule change, pointing out that it was less regulatory than the FCC’s 200 rule rewrite and was accompanied by diversity and localism initiatives in response to the FCC’s rule review process.