House Probe of FCC Finds
"Egregious Abuses of Power"
A year-long Congressional investigation of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin found "egregious abuses of power," though it was unclear whether the nation's top telecommunications regulator broke any rules or laws during his leadership.
The report released today on the probe, titled "Deception and Distrust" and led by Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, found Martin suppressed information and manipulated data to serve his agenda.
"Any of these findings, individually, are cause for concern," said Dingell. "Together, the findings suggest that, in recent years, the FCC has operated in a dysfunctional manner and Commission business has suffered as a result. It is my hope that the new FCC Chairman will find this report instructive and that it will prove useful in helping the Commission avoid making the same mistakes."
Martin has been criticized by FCC staff members for pushing his proposals to loosen media ownership rules and requirements for a la carte pricing of cable television through such tactics as suppressing agency studies that do not support his agenda.
FCC spokesman Robert Kenny said that the agency's review of the report indicated the FCC "did not violate any rules, laws or procedures."
"Chairman Martin has followed the same procedures that have been followed for the past 20 years by FCC Chairmen, both Democratic and Republican alike," Kenny said.
Dingell and Stupak's offices will host a conference call later this morning to go over details of the report.
TV Week had a more complete version of Mr. Kenny's comments:
“After a year of investigation, the committee’s primary criticism of the chairman is that he spent too much money to ensure that deaf Americans have equal access to communications services. The commission provided the committee with hundreds of e-mails from deaf and disabled Americans who wrote that they were 'appalled to learn that the FCC staff [was] intent on drastically cutting the Video Relay Service (VRS) rate and effectively cutting VRS availability for the deaf.' Disability rights groups were also opposed to proposals to cut funding for the VRS program.
"The other major criticism of Chairman Martin is that he believes cable rates are too high and that he has sought to enhance choice and competition in the market for video services. With cable rates having doubled over the last decade, he will continue advocate on behalf of the millions of cable subscribers.
"The chairman makes no apologies for his commitment to serving deaf and disabled Americans and for fighting to lower exorbitantly high cable rates that consumers are forced to pay.”
As a service to SpectrumTalk readers, here is an outline of the 12 topics in the report and their respective conclusions.
While TRS/VRS and cable rates were discussed, there were ten other issues.
On many of the issues the report has no negative findings.
Thoughtful essay on report from FHH CommLawBlog