FCC’s Pai, Commissioners, Summoned To Hill For House Hearing


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), will hold its second FCC Oversight hearing of the current Congress on Wednesday, October 25.

This will be the first Oversight Hearing for the full Commission, however, and it will begin at 2pm Eastern in the Rayburn House Office Building.

In a communique issued Wednesday afternoon, the subcommittee will have the opportunity “to press the FCC on removing innovation-killing Title II regulations, bringing today’s media landscape into the digital age, and reforming the Lifeline program.”

Members will also discuss the recently marked up FCC reauthorization bill, which will soon move to the full committee for consideration, as well as the commission’s response and preparedness efforts in the wake of the recent natural disasters.

There was no mention of an official condemnation by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of comments made by President Trump threatening the licenses of NBC owned-and-operated stations and of media coverage of his administration, which many on the Democratic aisle of both the House and Senate renewed their calls for on Wednesday.

“As part of ongoing oversight efforts, this hearing builds on our commitment to a transparent, accountable FCC that is ready to meet the communications needs of today’s consumers,” said Blackburn. “That means eliminating onerous regulations, reforming programs, and creating the right conditions to help expand broadband access across America. I look forward to having Chairman Pai and the full complement of commissioners join us for this important conversation on priorities for the agency.”

The announcement from the subcommittee comes following a Tuesday letter sent to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) from nine senators including Cory Booker, Tammy Duckworth, Brian Schatz and Ed Markey that specifically addressed President Trump’s threats on press freedom and the need for a Senate Commerce Committee oversight hearing on the FCC.

“Since taking office, this Administration has made statements and has taken actions that suggest a troubling disregard for the First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” they wrote:

The President has referred to the media as ‘the enemy of the state,’ publicly antagonizes specific companies for what he deems unfair coverage, and regularly undermines public confidence in the free press with unsubstantiated claims of ‘fake news.’ On Oct. 11, the president escalated that attack by directly attacking specific, and real, network news operations based on reporting with which he disagreed, and threatening those operations through the Federal Communication Commission’s television station license renewal proceedings.  

It took six days and pressure from Congress and the media for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to respond and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr continue to remain silent on the President’s threats. This silence is inexcusable on an issue that goes not only to the independence of the FCC, but also to the core of our democracy and the freedoms we value as Americans.

We therefore request an FCC Oversight Hearing as soon as possible. lt is imperative that FCC Chairman Pai and his fellow Commissioners address this Committee and respond to the President’s stated desire for regulatory abuse of his perceived critics through the FCC.