The FCC has released the agenda for its first open meeting of the year, scheduled for this Thursday, January 17, 2008. The agenda consists solely of presentations by the various Bureau Chiefs discussing their various policies and procedures in implementing the agency’s "strategic plan." Such an agenda, while not common, is not unheard of, especially for the first meeting of the year, and especially after so many controversial decisions were made in the last two meetings at the end of 2007.
This agenda was released a few days after House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell announced an investigation of the Commission’s rulemaking procedures and management practices. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has been under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike in both the House and Senate, especially following the agency’s December meeting in which the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban was modified, as we discussed here. Congress has criticized the agency’s lack of transparency, and infighting among the Commissioners has become open and much talked about in Washington, as reflected in meetings that are often delayed by hours and in Commissioner’s Copps’ vitriolic dissenting statement read aloud at the December meeting.
Congress is unlikely to be appeased by anything said at this week’s FCC meeting. One of the real questions is whether Congress will in fact do anything to overturn or block the Commission’s December decision to relax the multiple ownership rules, as threatened by Senator Dorgan. The tensions between Congress and the FCC, and among the Commissioners themselves, are likely to last at least until the November election. Next year, we will undoubtedly witness the naming of a new Chairman, regardless of who wins the Presidential race, and it remains to be seen how that will affect these ongoing skirmishes.