Washington -- Federal Communications Commission chairman
William Kennard responded to recent comments made by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) that the
agency is exposing FCC licensees and merger applicants to blackmail by politically
connected lobbyists and lawyers.
On at least two occasions -- most recently Feb. 14 to the
National Association of Broadcasters -- Tauzin said that when the FCC delays action on
mergers and license transfers, applicants are "shook down" and forced to pay
"greenmail" and "blackmail" to obtain results at the agency.
"There are bureaucrats at the FCC who facilitate
that," he added.
In a letter to Tauzin Feb. 15, Kennard said Tauzin's
comments were "unfair, irresponsible and unworthy of a public official for you to
cast aspersions on the integrity of the FCC in this manner without citing facts or
examples of any such conduct."
Tauzin said he would be more careful in choosing his words,
adding that he would continue to withhold the names of individuals and companies that have
complained to him about FCC misconduct. Tauzin said he has promised confidentiality or is
prohibited by law from naming people or companies.
"I don't want to come off like Joe McCarthy. I am
not out to put people in jail. I want to end the [FCC's] process," Tauzin said
in a conference call last week.