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FCC Media Bureau Chief Says Speed That Licensing Process

Donna Gregg said that under her direction, the focus of the FCC Media Bureau would be broadcast licensing, supporting the commissioners, and educating consumers.

At a Media Institute Luncheon Dec. 14, Gregg observed that broadcast licensing was the FCC first responsibility.

"Our main priority will be to streamline and expedite the licensing procedure," she said.

Gregg, who was appointed head of the Media Bureau last June, positioned herself as a defender of television; a small-town girl from rural Ohio who learned about the rest of the world through television. Media bashing, she said, "has reached new heights." During the third quarter of this year, the FCC received 26,000 complaints about the media.

Yet "as deficient as people say the media is, it's still popular," she said, citing Nielsen numbers indicating people watched, on average, four hours and 11 minutes of TV a day. She also talked about the advance of video distribution over cell phones, and how the media industry is expected to generate $1.8 trillion in 2009.

Each year, the FCC issues a report on video competition, and each year, it's found to be more competitive, she said.

Without commenting directly on the current indecency rage, Gregg said the bureau's role in public education was to "help consumers make satisfying choices.

"Media itself has a responsibility for the kind of services it provides, but we're not going to let the public off the hook. People must educate themselves," she said.

In quintessential Washington style during a somewhat aggressive Q&A session, Gregg held her own without actually giving up a whole lot of information. On whether the FCC was looking to get a la carte cable pricing for the Comcast/Time Warner/Adelphia carve-up, Gregg said the merger was "not far enough along" to have conditions.

FCC Chairman Martin actually resurrected a la carte at a Nov. 29 Senate Decency Forum as an alternative to the creation of "family-friendly" tiers on cable. Two weeks later, cable started making "family-friendly" tiers, but only on digital cable, which only about one-third of subscribers have. Asked if a digital-only family tier would ease the a la carte pressure, Gregg said, "it's a start."

Gregg ixnayed a query about her conduct as general counsel for the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, where she served before taking the Media Bureau gig last June. Gregg's role in the hiring of a consultant who rated content according to political bias, and in determining the severance of former CPB chief Kathleen Cox, was questioned.

"It's not appropriate for me to comment on that at this time," Gregg said.