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Report: NAB, NCTA Top FCC Trip Payers

5/21/2003 5:36 PM Eastern

The National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association top the list of trade groups that funded business
travel by Federal Communications Commission personnel over the past eight
years.

In a report Thursday, the Center for Public Integrity said private
organizations like the NAB and the NCTA combined spent $2.8 million to fund more
than 2,500 trips by FCC members and staff since May 1995.

Topping the list was the NAB, which funded 206 trips costing about $191,000,
followed by the NCTA, with 125 trips costing about $173,000. Both trade groups
stage annual conventions that attract thousands of attendees and numerous FCC
officials.

The report, entitled "Well-Connected," suggested that by accepting
industry-financed trips, FCC personnel grow too close to the companies they are
required to regulate.

"The report is astonishing because it reveals more than ever before just how
incestuous the relationship is between the [FCC] and the broadcasting and cable
industries it is supposed to regulate. The idea that the FCC can render an
objective, independent judgment about media ownership is laughable," CPI
executive director Charles Lewis said.

FCC spokesman David Fiske said the trips, all cleared by FCC ethics
officials, help to broaden the knowledge of agency personnel who travel to
conventions and conferences.

"The commission feels that by going outside the Beltway, they are not captive
to the Beltway," Fiske said.

NCTA spokesman Rob Stoddard defended funding FCC trips as a worthwhile effort
to ensure that FCC officials gained a better understanding of a complex cable
industry.

"We believe attendance at major trade shows is one of the most efficient ways
for a policymaker to gain insight into the dynamics and operations of our
business," Stoddard said. "Policymakers who attend face a rigorous schedule of
speaking engagements, fact finding, and meetings with industry executives."

An NAB spokesman declined to comment.

The CPI report said the top domestic destinations of FCC staff were: Las
Vegas, 330 trips; New Orleans, 173; New York, 102; Chicago, 87; and Atlanta, 60.
And the top foreign destinations were the United Kingdom, 102 trips; France,
21;
Canada, 21; China, 20; and Brazil, 17.

The FCC's two most widely traveled staff members were Roy Stewart, with 107
trips, and Robert Pepper, with 104 trips.

Stewart, former head of the Mass Media Bureau, is the chief of the Office of
Broadcast License Policy in the Mass Media Bureau. Pepper, former chief of the
Office of Plans and Policy, is the FCC's chief of policy development in the
recently created Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis.

The CPI said the report was funded by the Ford Foundation and the Open
Society Institute, a foundation headed by billionaire investor George
Soros.

 

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