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LPFM, Reform Are Discussed During FCC Oversight Hearing

Chairman reiterates no interest in revising Fairness Doctrine even ‘through the back door’

Despite a focus on the FCC’s development of a plan for the national rollout of broadband, some general broadcast issues were discussed in an oversight hearing Thursday, the first such hearing for new Chairman Julius Genachowski and other new Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Baker.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., focused on his bill that would direct the commission to drop third-adjacent-channel protection for full-power FMs in order to create more possible allocations for LPFMs. Saying he “hoped the committee chairman will allow us to proceed on mark-up soon,” Doyle asked the three new commissioners how they feel about lifting third-adjacent protections.

Genachowski said “based on what I know now,” he’d support that, and Clyburn and Baker agreed.

Genachowski also reiterated that he does not support a return of the Fairness Doctrine, “either through the front door or the back door.” As chairman, he said, he’s discovered “sometimes I have to repeat things.”

Regarding reform of the agency, Genachowski and the other commissioners said the new FCC will be data-driven and strive to be more transparent. While some changes have been made, much of the details are still being worked on, he said.

Genachowski mentioned that he had taken a suggestion from Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., to have broadcast engineers and Media Bureau staff to meet and discuss some issues. Without going into specifics, Genachowski thanked Walden for the idea. Walden and his wife owned radio stations for 22 years.

Much remains to be done as Commissioner Robert McDowell noted that more than 1.3 million broadcast indecency complaints remain to be acted upon; he said they are “ossifying” at the commission.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she was gratified the chairman has made minority ownership a priority. “We need credible, reliable and complete data” on how many broadcast holdings are owned by women and minorities, she said. “We don’t have that now.”

Two ideas are being discussed at the commission to bring more transparency to its processes. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the agency is thinking of revising its ex parte rules “to make sure we’re communicating what’s happening” at the agency. Commissioner Michael Copps brought up the problem of the commission’s own rules preventing more than two commissioners from meeting at a time; several lawmakers said they supported drafting legislation to address that.