Let the sunshine in


The scheduled items to be considered at a monthly FCC open meeting are typically made public about a week prior to the date of the event. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has decided to triple that, giving stakeholders, watchdogs and citizens three weeks to lobby, comment, editorialize, plot, protest, make travel arrangements and/or lay in an adequate supply of snacks and beverages.

“This step enhances the openness and transparency of the Commission’s processes and deliberations,” said the FCC in a release. The standard full agenda will still be published a week ahead of time as in the past.

RBR/TVBR observation: Martin has come under relentless criticism for trying to use railroad tactics in order to play Santa Claus to would-be media consolidators. One of the alleged techniques is conducting the business of the FCC in secrecy. This should count as a step toward openness and transparency, but it probably won’t.

His predecessor Michael Powell was roundly criticized for unleashing unseen the deregulatory 6/2/03 media ownership rulemaking. However, Michael Copps (D), in one of the most stunningly effective media campaigns ever stirred up by a heretofore obscure bureaucrat in history, stirred up the watchdog community in part by holding Democrat-only public meetings with colleague Jonathan Adelstein.

Martin, charged by the courts with executing an almost complete do-over, went out of his way to avoid Powell’s process errors. He dragged the Commission from one end of the country to the other to more public meetings – which in fact were mostly carbon copies of the Copps-Adelstein meetings. He gave warning as to what changes he was actually going to try to effect at the 12/18/07 open meeting, an unprecedented act of openness and transaparency. He even heeded the overwhelming testimony of the citizens who showed up at the forums, even though they were not likely a representative sample of the electorate at large, and deep-sixed almost all of Powell’s 2003 plan.

Still, changes were added at the last minute. And at some point, the roll must be called for votes. So the charges of manipulative secrecy were heard again. So this three-week sunshine move may buff up the openness image a little bit, but we wouldn’t count on it.