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FCC's plan for “Lapse of Congressional Appropriations”

Now that the government is officially shut down, after a party-loyal (and shortsighted) Congress failed to reach a resolution on a short-term funding measure, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is not working either. That means if a consumer wants to complain about their commercials being too loud, or that there’s too much skin on TV, there won't be anybody in the office to answer the phone.

The New York Times reported FCC managers told their employees (some 1,678 of them) to stay home for the duration of the shutdown. Those “essential” employees will keep working on programs that address radio interference detection, treaty negotiations and other critical information technology issues,” the newspaper said.

Interestingly, the FCC had a plan and is now putting it into place (as of October 1st). The “Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations” stipulates that 98 percent of the Commission's staff is subject to furlough.

The plan, actually issued on Friday (9/27), mandated that all employees show up for work on October 1, for half a day, in order to “conduct orderly shutdown of operations,” the plan states. All employees were expected to leave within four hours and not come back until a deal has been reached.

There are a few “very rare exceptions,” including up to six employees paid by a source other than annual appropriations. This includes the Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and the sitting Commissioners, as well as three Inspector General no-year/Universal Service Funds staffers who may be subject to furlough, anyway. Also affected: up to 16 employees retained “to protect life and property;” up to 8 employees for interference detection, mitigation, and disaster response; two for "critical oversight issues"; one for treaty negotiations; one for national security functions; and four IT workers.

It’s also affected the FCC's social media pages. The commission left a message on its  FACEBOOK page, and sent out this tweet under @FCC: “We're sorry, but FCC will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies during the government shutdown.”

No ones’ sure how long the shutdown will last, but for TV station owners in the middle of licensing issues, lobbyists debating the FCC’s proposal to eliminate the existing UHF discount from TV ownership rules,or chief engineers contemplating repacking issues, this could have a longer-lasting affect.

The last time Congress could not reach a federal budget settlement was in 1996. On NBC’s Today Show Carson Daly launched the hashtag #DearCongress so viewers could weigh in on the shutdown and its impact.