04.09.2007 08:00 AM
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Congress spurs FCC action

After Rep. John D. Dingell scolded the FCC about delaying DTV issues at a public hearing last month, the commission is finally taking action.

Within days of Dingell's stern lecture, the "Washington Post" reported that the FCC accelerated efforts to complete action on about 150 pending matters, from regulating cable TV service in apartment buildings to settling quarrels over the distribution of telecommunications funds in rural areas.

Dingell's outburst is part of a new level of scrutiny the FCC is receiving since the Democrats took control of Congress at the beginning of the year. The newspaper said the Democrats in Congress are "pushing, prodding and sometimes skewering" the commission on subjects they think have been sidetracked or mismanaged for years.

Though Congress has no direct control over the FCC, the commission is taking seriously the complaints of powerful members of Congress. There's always the threat that Congress might cut the FCC's budget.

In an interview with the "Post," Martin said the FCC would be ignoring recent history if it dismissed Congress's concerns. In 2003, he noted, Congress overturned the commission's policy on media ownership by passing a law narrowing the proportion of U.S. households that a single owner of TV stations may reach.

"The lesson I should learn from that is, we've got to pay attention to what Congress thinks about these issues," Martin said.

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