FCC off the hook for document suppression


The FCC’s Inspector General could find no evidence that there was any attempt by senior officials to suppress documents on topics related to media ownership believed to be unfavorable to those supporting deregulatory policies. The investigation was spurred by an exchange between FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) last year. Carla Conover, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, handled the case. In a release, the Office of the Inspector General said, "Based on the extensive and wide-ranging investigation conducted by Ms. Conover and her colleagues, the Inspector General found no evidence that there had ever been a pattern or practice of suppressing research at the Commission." 150K pages of documentation were examined and 35 current and former employees were interviewed, including "…staff and management, economists and lawyers, among them the former Media Bureau Chief and the current Chairman’s Chief of Staff."

Missing in the investigation was an interview with Adam Candeub, currently a professor and the Michigan State University College of Law and former Media Bureau employee. He is the one who made the allegations about document suppression in the first place, but he refused to participate in Conover’s investigation and could not be compelled to testify. Referring to one of the allegedly suppressed studies, OIG wrote, "We neither saw nor heard any direct evidence that anyone in senior management at the Commission stated orally or in writing that he or she disliked the results of the Local TV News Report." The hunt for a similar smoking gun in a radio industry review also came up empty.

RBR observation: Wouldn’t it be nice if we private citizens could do this over, say, a speeding ticket? "That’s OK, officer, I’ll have my Inspector General look into it — honey, how fast would you say I was going?" (We’ll just have to hope she doesn’t question the kids — they’ll turn on you in a heartbeat.) If the chief accuser won’t defend his allegations, even though he is far removed from the possibility of supervisory reprisal, there really isn’t much the OIG can do, is there? Anyway, we stand by our own belief that the reports hardly matter. The commissioners lean either pro-deregulation or anti-consolidation to one degree or another, and no report is likely to change that very much. It remains more a matter of what Martin thinks he can slip past Congress and the courts before a new administration settles into the White House.