Acting Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Copps has asked Congress for $1 million for DTV-transition related expenditures in fiscal year 2010, which begins this Oct. 1, or four months after the June 12 hard date.
He also told legislators he needed $1 million to hire economists and engineers, among others, to help provide the data that could drive an FCC effort to promote media ownership diversity.
That was part of his pitch to the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Governemnt for the FCC's 2010 budget, according to a copy of his prepared testimony for delivery Wednesday.
Copps said the $1 million in DTV money was not only to deal with the remnants of the full-power DTV transition, but to prepare for the "next" transition: low-power TV.
"Even after the transition for full-power stations takes place on June 12, 2009," he told Congress, "we
anticipate an ongoing need for DTV efforts, not only to deal with the aftermath of the full-power transition, but to
begin addressing the 'next' DTV transition-the transition of the thousands of low-power and TV translator stations
across the country that are still broadcasting in analog."
Copps is asking for $355.8 million in all, an increase of $6 million over the FCC's fiscal 2009 budget.
That total include $15 million to upgrade its IT systems, including key word searches of comments in ongoing proceedings, which the agency says would make it easier for the public to track and participate its decision-making process.
In the irony department, the commission also needs to modernize its phone system, which Copps called antiquated and pointed out meant "expensive, long-distance phone bills" for intra-agency calls to its Gettysburg, Penn. call center, which is handling DTV transition queries from the public.
Copps also said the commission needed to modernize its bureau databases, saying it was tough for the public to navigate them. He said the commission would move toward a "more unified licensing system....In some ways, the easy road would be to muddle through with our outdated and inefficient infrastructure and force the rest of the world to adjust to us. But that is not my vision of an agency with 'communications' in its title."
Copps also wants to increase the FCC's payroll by $1 million to attract engineers, economists and other staffers, citing retirements and other personnel losses.
That dovetails with Copps' push for better data on media ownership and more fact-based decision-making generally. He made that point to Congress, saying that "the sad truth is that we at the FCC simply do not know the precise state of\ minority and female media ownership in this country. If the Commission is to be a data-driven agency, we need better data, and we should not be forced to rely on outside parties, many with their own vested interests, for the basic information we need."
He said that better in-house data would be necessary to justify "more targeted approaches" to promoting minority and female ownership to the courts, as well as help it in its next quadrennial review of all its rules, which was mandated by Congress.