News

FCC Urged to Speed Up

7/19/2001 7:47 AM Eastern

The Federal Communications Commission is being urged to tighten procedures
and act faster on a range of issues in order to demonstrate that the agency is
committed to reform and reorganization.

In recent filings with the FCC, various parties complained that the agency
takes too long -- sometimes many months, sometimes a few years -- to resolve
complaints and disputes, causing problems in the market and stalling court
appeals.

FCC chairman Michael Powell has turned to special counsel Mary Beth Richards
to lead the agency's reform and reorganization effort. She has met privately
with reform advocates and received letters and electronic mail from them, as
well.

The FCC released all written submissions Wednesday, including one by a North
Carolina radio station that accused some FCC staff of engaging in professional
misconduct.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, wrote saying
that the commission should declare that all petitions for reconsideration are
deemed denied if they are not acted upon within 180 days or if the agency does
not extend the 180-day period.

Such a step, he added, would 'eliminate long-pending proceedings' and 'allow
parties to seek timely relief in court.'

Schwartzman also complained that when parties meet with FCC officials, they
are normally required to file letters explaining their contacts. But he said the
rule that requires something more than a 'one-sentence description' of the
meeting 'is routinely ignored.'

Washington, D.C.-based lawyer David Tillotson wrote
about his attempts to get the FCC to require some radio-translator stations in
Alaska to shut down. Tillotson, who claimed that the stations operated illegally,
said the complicated case began in 1996 and wasn't finally
resolved until earlier this year. Although his client won on paper, Tillotson complained
that the commission won't enforce its decision.

'It's a paradigm example of how incompetent this agency is, and you can quote
me,' Tillotson said in an interview.

Deborah S. Proctor, general manager of radio station WCPE in North Carolina,
filed a letter June 15 saying she wanted to provide evidence that the 'FCC
engineering department knowingly, willingly and purposefully discriminated
against the noncommercial public radio station I manage.'

In 1994, Proctor said she filed with the FCC to increase the power level of
her Wake Forest radio station in order to send the signal to Chapel Hill. She
added that the agency denied her a waiver one day after adopting a rule allowing
other noncommercial radio stations to increase their power levels.

The FCC, she said, refused to allow her station to benefit from the new
rule.

'We pushed the FCC to revise a rule, and then we can't take advantage of it,'
Proctor said in an interview. 'This thing has been dragging on for years and
years and years.'

In her letter to Richards, Proctor said the commission's stance on her
station 'was done in retribution to the role I took' in pushing the FCC to allow
stations like hers to increase power levels. 'These are strong words and they
are not being written lightly,' Proctor wrote.

FCC spokeswoman Maureen Peratino declined to comment on any of the documents
filed with Richards.

However, she said, Proctor's letter was referred to the
FCC's Office of Inspector General, which is headed by H. Walker Feaster III.

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