House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate FCC regulatory procedures

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Jan. 8 informed FCC chairman Kevin Martin that it was launching a formal investigation of the commission’s regulatory procedures.

The investigation is intended to find out if the commission’s regulatory procedures are being done in a “fair, open, efficient and transparent manner,” according to a letter informing Martin of the investigation.

The letter, signed by committee chairman John Dingell, D-MI, ranking member Joe Barton, R-TX, as well as Bart Stupak, D-MI, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and subcommittee ranking member John Shimkus, R-IL, told the chairman that the investigation also will examine allegations that management practices at the commission may be adversely impacting operations.

The committee is at the primary, fact-gathering stage of the investigation and has not yet set a date for a public hearing.

The decision to launch the investigation follows a Dec. 3 letter from Dingell to the commission expressing concern about the lack of openness in certain commission proceedings. In the letter, Dingell said he was “rapidly losing confidence that the commission has been conducting its affairs in an appropriate manner.”

Specifically, the letter questioned the practice of not publishing the text of proposed rules so the public could comment. There also is little public notice of proposed actions, and commissioners often receive the details of draft items too late to analyze the proposals so they can make informed decisions.

The manner in which these sorts of procedures played out leading up to the commission’s 3-2 vote Dec. 18 that lifted certain restrictions on cross-ownership of broadcast outlets and daily newspapers in the same city also factored into the decision to launch the investigation, said a committee spokesperson.