Bill would allow commissioners to converse


Federal rules currently prevent more than two FCC commissioners from getting together privately to discuss business, forcing convoluted methods of communication and causing difficulty with interactions as simple as the exchange of ideas. A new bill from Bart Stupak (D-MI) would change all that.

Called H.R. 4167 The Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act, it would allow three or more commissioners to meet behind closed doors to discuss matters before the FCC.

The rules are simple – no votes may be taken at the meeting; only commissioners and employees of the Commission may attend; at least one member of each party must be present, and if any member or members are without party affiliation, they must also be present; and an attorney for the FCC’s Office of General Counsel must be present.

Within five days, the FCC must disclose who was in attendance and summarize the discussion.

Michael Copps, who has longed begged for such a measure, said, “I am thrilled by Congressman Bart Stupak’s introduction of the Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act. If there was only one action we could take to reform the FCC, this would be my choice. The inability of Commissioners to get together and talk as a group makes zero sense. The statutory bar on more than two Commissioners talking together outside a public meeting has had pernicious and unintended consequences—stifling collaborative discussions among colleagues, delaying timely decision-making, discouraging collegiality and short-changing consumers and the public interest. For eight years I have seen first-hand and up close the heavy costs of this prohibition.”

Copps concluded, “The Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act is a prudent, balanced proposal that recognizes the benefits of permitting the Commission to do its business collectively while maintaining full transparency of the process. Congressman Stupak’s bill is timely and spot-on. I thank him for his leadership on this much needed reform and wish him well in seeing it through to enactment.”

RBR-TVBR observation: This is a common sense, non-controversial measure and deserves swift passage. As a news organization, we would have a strong interest in the summaries that would follow within five days of such a meeting.