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Sparring on FCC Reform Measure

The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved legislation intended to reform Federal Communications Commission (FCC) procedures.  However, it was not without a battle.  A unified Republican caucus along with 12 Democrats voted to pass the FCC Process Reform Act (H.R. 3309) over the opposition of most House Democrats and the White House. 

H.R. 3309 and a related bill, H.R. 3310, were advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month to prescribe rules for publication of, performance measures for, and a “shot clock” to act on FCC orders, as well as to simplify reporting requirements for the communications industry.  The sponsor of H.R. 3309, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), stated that while the FCC has made progress in this area under the leadership of FCC Chairman Genachowski , “significant backlogs still remain, with 4,984 petitions, 3,950 applications, and more than 1,083 consumer complaints still pending at the Commission. These workload issues highlight the need for good process…”  Similarly, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) declared, “More than 3,600 petitions and licenses have been pending at the Commission for more than five years, and that’s a lifetime in today’s marketplace.”

On the House Floor, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) proposed an amendment that would have directed the FCC to require broadcast, cable, and satellite licensees to obtain “from each entity sponsoring political programming, a certification that identifies any donors that have contributed a total of $10,000 or more to such entity in an election reporting cycle.”  A similar amendment was defeated in committee, and the full House rejected Rep. Eshoo’s proposal by a vote of 179 - 238. 

This bill heads to the Senate where it will face significant hurdles.  In addition, the White House opposes this legislation.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations