FCC Reauthorization Would End Media Cross-ownership Ban

Draft legislation also creates Office of Economics and Data

House Republicans, who have been trying to excise the media cross-ownership ban from the FCC's regulatory playbook, are making that part of the draft legislation reauthorizing the FCC, according to a GOP staff memo for Tuesday's (July 25) FCC oversight hearing.

The draft, in addition to eliminating the ban, includes process reforms like making public items circulated for a commission vote, something FCC chair Ajit Pai has been doing, but which could change under a new chairman unless it were codified. The reauthorization would also mandate cost-benefit analysis for proposed rules with potentially significant economic impact, part of Pai's proposed new Office of Economics and Data.

It would also allow the FCC more flexibility in assessing regulatory fees -- the FCC is self-supporting, paying for its ongoing operations through fees on regulated entities. It also raises the status and profile of the chief information officer and FCC inspector general.

Among the issues the memo suggests will be lines of questioning are network neutrality, media ownership, process reform and the Lifeline broadband subsidy, all hot-button issues to some degree.

The discussion draft reauthorizes the FCC through 2022. The last time the FCC was reauthorized was in 1990.

As Politico described the process of reathorization: "[E]very federal agency is supposed to operate under congressional authorization — the set of rules that define the priorities and activities of the government. When they expire, it’s a chance to reconsider an agency’s mission, modernize it and impose some accountability..."