Washington - Dec 11, 2013 - The Communications and Technology Subcommittee voted and passed the FCC Process Reform Act. Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) submitted an amended form of the bill that removed restrictions on the FCC to impose conditions on mergers. The amended form also would not force the agency to perform cost-benefit analyses for proposed rules. The amendment was a bipartisan compromise, and according to the subcommittee leaders will bring additional transparency and predictability to the FCC. The bill also contains some statutory provisions including changes to the sunshine rules and a permanent exception to the Antideficiency Act for the federal Universal Service Fund.
Also in the proposals: The FCC would be required to establish "shot clocks" for action on proceedings. It requires the commission to outline for commissioners the options available to resolve a proceeding, to provide commissioners adequate time to deliberate pending orders and to provide the public time to read proposed orders prior to open meetings.
The planned bill requires the FCC to allow a bipartisan majority of commissioners to direct staff to draft an order, place it on the agenda, and require that the agency vote. Currently, the agenda is up to the chairman.
The commission would need to release all orders within 30 days of adoption and publish documents in the Federal Register no more than 45 days after a document is released. The measure requires Notices of Proposed Rulemaking to follow within three years of Notices of Inquiry to ensure they remain current, to include the specific text of proposed rules, and to provide at least 30 days each for comments and replies.
The changes would also make it easier for commissioners to meet to discuss business outside of public meetings.
NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton issued a statement saying, "The bill is an important step in helping broadcasters carry out their mission to serve the public interest by making the FCC more efficient. The NAB looks forward to working with the Committee and all stakeholders on ensuring the FCC can perform its duties in an expeditious and data-driven manner."