House Tweaks FCC Reform Bill to Accommodate New Chair

Says Changes Address Agency Concerns about Timeline of Consolidating Reports, Adding New Leadership
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House Energy and Commerce Committee members have agreed to tweak an FCC reform bill so that it won't hit the a new FCC chairman too hard before he ro she gets their FCC-legs, as it were.

In his opening statement for a two-day markup of the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act of 2013, Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who supports the bill, said the FCC had expressed some concerns that "under some circumstances" a new FCC chairman -- expected to be Tom Wheeler, though it actually would not apply to him -- "could face a daunting timeline under the language of this bill."

The bill, H.R. 2844, consolidates a number of FCC annual reports, including on video competition and cable prices, into a single biennial report. It has bipartisan support and is by far the more likely of two FCC reform bills to make it to the President's desk.

Walden said he had met with ranking full committee member Henry Waxman and subcommittee member Anna Eshoo, both California Democrats, and they would be offering an amendment that would address those timing concerns.

According to a copy of the amendment, it would allow a chairman who comes in immediately before the due date--fourth quarter of an even year, will have until the first quarter of the next year to complete the portion of the report the chairman is responsible for.

It also clarifies that the bill doesn't change the FCC's authority to issue other reports.

The change would likely not affect Wheeler because the biennial reports would be due in even years and Wheeler is expected to take over by the end of 2013.

The committee is not yet marking up or voting on the other FCC reform bill, the FCC Process Reform Act, on which there is yet no bipartisan agreement.

Both bills were favorably reported out of the subcommittee last week, but with the clear signal from Democrats that they still had major issues with the Process Reform Act, which would limit the conditions the FCC could put on media mergers, something Democrats are very unlikely to support. Both sides have agreed to continue to work on that bill, since both sides agree that targeted process reform is needed.