GAO/FCC disagree over complaint processing


The Government Accountability Office says the FCC complaint handling process is busted — the Commission may very well process 95% of the complaints received, but it is said to do a poor job of resolution tracking and enforcement. The FCC responded that it recognized and addressed some of the problems GAO points out several years ago, and the GAO doesn’t know it because it is relying on data that is several years old.

Ed Markey (D-MA) jumped right on the case, noting GAO’s finding that over 100K complaints flow in, but only about 10% are properly investigated. "Without an effective FCC enforcement program, consumers are left out in the cold," he said. "Unfortunately, solely relying upon FCC enforcement for consumer protection is utterly unreasonable in light of the GAO’s findings.

The FCC was immediately ready with a response. It said GAO was using four-year-old data. In that time, it says it has implemented procedures to clear the backlog of complaints which at one point numbered 113K, and with that cleared, is better able to keep up with the flow as it comes in.

The FCC’s defense ran over 100 pages. Looking at the period between 1/1/03 and 12/31/06, it took 3.4K enforcement actions resulting in 65.7M in fines forfeitures and consent decree payments; and has added 43M to that total in 2007 alone.

The perception that complaints are not acted upon can be explained in part by the fact that in the case of 71% of them, the target of the complaint was found to be in compliance with FCC rules and regulations.

RBR/TVBR observation: We have been following FCC actions on license challenges lately. It is amazing how often these complaints involve things that simply aren’t under the FCC’s jurisdiction. Hey, my radio station changed its format! Yes, that is something to complain about, but that doesn’t make it an actionable complaint.

Our biggest complaint is what we see as the FCC’s current attempt to rewrite the rules on fleeting indecency on the fly. Will the Supremes weigh in on this one? Stay tuned.