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Panel Votes on FCC Reform, Political Programming Disclosure

This week House Republicans advanced legislation intended to reform Federal Communications Commission (FCC) procedures, and they defeated legislation that would require broadcasters to determine and disclose supporters of “political programming.”

The House Energy & Commerce Committee approved two bills aimed at improving FCC operations by “increasing transparency, predictability, and consistency,” according to a committee statement.  Among other reforms, Rep. Greg Walden’s (R-OR) FCC Process Reform Act (H.R. 3309) and Congressman Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) FCC Consolidated Reporting Act (H.R. 3310) would prescribe rules for publication of, performance measures for, and a “shot clock” to act on FCC orders, as well as simplify reporting requirements for the communications industry. 

During the debate on H.R. 3309, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Communications & Technology Subcommittee, offered an amendment that would have directed the FCC to require broadcast, cable, and satellite licensees to “obtain from any entity sponsoring political programming a certification that identifies any donors that have contributed $10,000 or more to such entity to further such programming.”  Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the same subcommittee, clarified that this would affect radio as well as TV broadcasters, which is a step further than related proceedings at the FCC, and also noted that “political programming” appeared to be a vague term.

The FCC proposed last fall that television broadcasters’ public files, including their “political file,” be posted online on a public server.  NRB filed public comments urging the FCC to reject this proposal requiring mandatory Internet disclosure by television stations of "political files" and information related to issue-advocacy organizations. NRB President & CEO Dr. Frank Wright stated, “Current FCC disclosure mandates are more than adequate, making these new proposed regulations ill-conceived because they would make ordinary Americans – who just happen to be active in a particular political cause – vulnerable to targeted attacks by individuals or groups that disagree with them.”

  • Watch the House Energy & Commerce Committee debate on this legislation.
  • Read NRB’s public comments opposing mandatory online disclosure of the “political file.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations