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Communications Government Politics

GAO Report Slams FCC 117

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the gold-makes-the-rules dept.
eldavojohn writes "The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has made a report available today that was requested a year ago by a Democratic senator that finds the Federal Communications Commissions has been favoring lobbyists a little too much. 'The report says that some people at the commission warn lobbyists when a particular issue is about to come up for a vote. Typically, the commission chairman circulates an item for vote three weeks before a meeting. Under the rules of the FCC, meeting agendas are published one week before a vote is scheduled. Once the agenda is published lobbying is banned. The report says that the two-week window allows lobbyist plenty of time to "maximize their impact."'"
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GAO Report Slams FCC

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:46PM (#20843129)
    Working hand in hand to screw the citizenry over.
    • by purpledinoz (573045) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:58PM (#20843271)
      A perfect example, the merger between XM and Sirius. The NAB (National Association of Broadcasting) is heavily lobbying against this merger, because that would mean a stronger competitor. And the result? The merger has been debated for months, and it's still going on. In the meantime, other huge mergers have been approved within a week.
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:54PM (#20844001) Homepage
        Personally I hope the merger goes through the NAB has been allowing the airwaves to be filled with festering monkey feces and it's convincing people that $12.00 a month is worth it in droves. Sirius and XM are seeing way more people getting not only a subscription but multiples faster than ever The hip new thing in high-schools is not a new video ipod it's a Sirius or XM portable.

        Even the teenagers are sick of the clearchannel 1 song between 15 minute commercials power blocks. also several of the FM stations locally that clearchannel turned into robo radio stations have such low bandwidth mp3's in their playback pool that the stations sound WORSE than the weather channels on XM and sirius.

        NAB needs to be disbanded, Clearchannel needs to reap what they sow by being decimated by the satellite offerings. You know that free radio has problems when you can drive people quickly to the pay channels.
        • by fotbr (855184)
          I'd go one step further and say that you know free radio has problems when you not only drive people to pay radio, but you drive the rest to "no radio".
          • I'm with you there. I often find that if my CDs, tapes, or MP3 player isn't in my car I am sitting in silence. Between the annoying DJs, incessant commercials, and crapola the payola buys I'd rather stare at traffic in silence.
            • I have 5 channels queued on my car stereo, when one starts airing commercials i switch tot he next.. when i run out of channels i flip on the CD.
        • NAB needs to be disbanded, Clearchannel needs to reap what they sow by being decimated by the satellite offerings. You know that free radio has problems when you can drive people quickly to the pay channels.

          Not just the NAB, but the FCC also needs to be banned. The FCC and it's predecessors were created in an era of airwave scarcity. Now however there isn't the scarcity there once was.

          Falcon
        • by Leebert (1694)

          Clearchannel needs to reap what they sow by being decimated by the satellite offerings.


          Clear Channel owns a stake in XM. About 3% of shares from what I understand.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        GAO Reports are available on-line at gao.gov I am guessing the report under consideration is this one

        http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071046.pdf [gao.gov]

        but neither the slashdot notice or the article it references gives the report number.
      • by coaxial (28297)
        And let's not forget that an XM-Sirius merger would reduce the number of satelite radio providers in the US from 2 to 1.

        W00t! Monopolies offer choice!

        • Lets suppose that they do merge, and they obtain this so-called monopoly you claim. Sirus/XM raises their prices to $50/mo and reduces programming by 50%. What will happen? Their 12 million listeners will dwindle down to less than a million, and people would go back to listening to terrestrial radio and iPods. You fail to realize that satellite radio competes with terrestrial radio, Internet radio, portable music players (like the iPod). Sirius/XM will still have to keep their prices low and maintain good p

          • by Knara (9377)

            You fail to realize that satellite radio competes with terrestrial radio, Internet radio, portable music players (like the iPod).

            I've routinely failed to be convinced by this argument. Basic/Standard cable may compete for viewers with broadcast TV, but it doesn't *really* compete with Video iPods, for example, because the viewership stats are so very different in number. Satellite radio really only competes with terrestrial radio, since it's the only one that has portable, streaming audio. When WiMax, et al. get popular, then perhaps you'll have a point, but until then, it's really just XM vs Sirius vs Clear Channel.

          • by coaxial (28297)
            1. It wouldn't be a "so called monopoly" it would be a monopoly. There would be only one company in the satelite radio sector. That is the very definition of a monopoly.

            1a. Yes, satelite radio competes with other free services. They fact that they are having problems charging for what others are giving away for free, is shocking. They can't compete because they can't convince people to pay for something they're getting for free. It's a structural problem with their buisness model, and they deserve to
            • 1. It wouldn't be a "so called monopoly" it would be a monopoly. There would be only one company in the satelite radio sector. That is the very definition of a monopoly.

              This is like saying that your local cable company has a monopoly on delivering TV channels over cable. Sure, you're technically correct, but that fact is completely irrelevant. Consumers still have a choice. They can choose to get satellite TV, or just settle with UHF/VHF.

              1a. Yes, satelite radio competes with other free services. They fact that they are having problems charging for what others are giving away for free, is shocking. They can't compete because they can't convince people to pay for something they're getting for free. It's a structural problem with their buisness model, and they deserve to go out of buisness. This "loss" of choice is specious, because it's an option that demonstorably no one is taking. It's like arguing that removing rusty nails and broken glass burritos from a menu is a loss of choice. Technically that's true, but not all choices are equal.

              Don't you think it's in the best interest of the consumer to help keep satellite radio alive? Or are you satisfied with the shit on regular shitty radio? I'm only for the merger because it will eventually force terrestrial radio to be

              • by coaxial (28297)

                Don't you think it's in the best interest of the consumer to help keep satellite radio alive? Or are you satisfied with the shit on regular shitty radio? I'm only for the merger because it will eventually force terrestrial radio to be less shitty.

                You're placing a value judgement on satelite radio (that is is somehow "less shitty") that is running counter to the what the free market has decided. Even if satelite radio is "less shitty" the market has decided that it is not worth the premium to pay for. That's the only metric of any consequence. The fact that there is insufficient demand for satelite radio for the sector to be profitable demonstrates that terrestrial radio is at an acceptable level of "shittyness."

                You may be a fan of satelite radio

                • Terrestrial radio may be having problems because of competition from prerecorded music and talk, but the fact the still kicked sateliltes ass. Mostly because very few want to pay for something they can get for free.

                  So you are now in agreement with me that a merger of Sirius and XM isn't really a monopoly: Satellite vs. Terrestrial Radio. Thank you.

            • by ubrgeek (679399)
              It's only a monopoly until someone else launches a satellite.
              • In this case, that's not correct. You still have to have part of the electromagnetic spectrum allocated for use within the US (if the US is your target audience.)

                That's the valid argument against an XM/Sirius merger, independent of lobbyists: The government allocated spectrum for two independent, competing satellite radio networks, And Two We Shall Have.

    • by Quadraginta (902985) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:42PM (#20843853)
      Who do you suppose "lobbyists" represent? Aliens from Mars?

      "Lobbyist" is just a short way to say "a representative of a group of citizens who all have some common interest and pool their money to hire someone to let elected officials know how they feel (and will vote)." Business groups (like oil companies) have lobbyists, and so do unions (like the UAW, CWA, or AFL-CIO), and so do consumer groups, environmental groups, senior citizens' groups, animal breeder groups, Jewish groups, Muslim and evangelist groups, pro- and anti-immigration groups, pro- and anti-gun control groups, PETA and cattle ranchers, et cetera and so forth.

      Or are you thinking "citizens" means only those folks who have no "business" interests at all? Folks without a job, who own nothing? Teenagers living in mom's basement?

      In the real adult world, we all have economic interests. If we're employed in the radio industry -- making radios, selling radios, selling products on radio shows, hosting radio shows, reporting on the news, et cetera and so forth -- or if we make use of the radio industry -- we listen to radio shows and watch TV, or we use cell phones -- then we have opinions about how the FCC should regulate use of the airwaves. Almost certainly conflicting opinions.

      Do you feel those opinions should not be presented forcefully to the government bureaucrats who make decisions affecting our interests? Should we just wait around, silent and respectful, while our betters on the FCC tell us what's good for us? Should every one of us who wants to be heard be forced to take time off from work to fly out to Washington to testify every time the FCC holds hearings (every four weeks, maybe)? Or does it sound kinda' reasonable and economical if a bunch of us with similar interests and opinions might hire some good talker to go to Washington and make our case for us on a regular basis? Which is what lobbying is.

      Maybe what you're doing, in the hysterical spirit of the times, is confusing lobbying ("speaking up about what you want to your elected officials") with corruption (bribing elected officials). They're not the same. For one thing, the latter is a crime. For another, it's inherently anti-democratic, whereas there's very little more democratic than groups of citizens vying for influence through their freely chosen representatives (i.e. those evil lobbyists).
      • I agree with what you're saying in principle, but I think the problem with the lobbies is that the most powerful lobbies, who represent a very specific group, have a very large influence on policy. It's the government's job to balance special interests with the interests which are for the good of the people.
        • The most powerful lobbies are, pretty much by definition, those that represent the largest number of citizens from the broadest possible coalition of interests groups. Why do you suppose government is very solicitous of organizations like the AARP? Because they represent a very large group of people (folks over 55) who have more than the ordinary amount of money to spend, who represent lots of various political persuasions (so every politician, of any party, wants to be on their good side), and because th
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by walshy007 (906710)
            unfortunately.. I believe your confusing the way lobbying SHOULD work, with the way it works in practice.
            • by Knara (9377) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @07:28PM (#20845027)

              unfortunately.. I believe your confusing the way lobbying SHOULD work, with the way it works in practice.

              Correct. While the poster presents an excellent view of how lobbying would work in a perfect world, in reality lobbyists are quite often highly paid contractors that express the desires of a relatively small number of people who have large amount of resources directed towards legislative action that directly benefits themselves, not the population as a whole.

              • And even more often, people express their opinions of how they believe reality to be, with nothing more than cynicism and "common sense" backing them up.
              • by JoelKatz (46478)
                Right, but let's not forget that these are also the people most heavily affected by the proposed legislation. It might benefit the public as a whole for $1 billion to be taken from every person with a net worth of over $3 billion and divided equally among the American people, but surely the billionaires have a right to have their objections heard. That .01% of the population deserves half the government ears on a proposal like this because they're the victims.
          • by I_Voter (987579)
            Quadraginta wrote:

            The most powerful lobbies are, pretty much by definition, those that represent the largest number of citizens from the broadest possible coalition of interests groups. ..(snip).. They can't give more than a measly few grand to any one political candidate, and they've only got one vote each.

            --------

            IMO: There are two ways that the CEO's, their BOD's, and maybe major stockholders can use economic power to influence U.S. politics - beyond what you indicated.

            !. Control of advertising

          • The most powerful lobbies are, pretty much by definition, those that represent the largest number of citizens from the broadest possible coalition of interests groups. Why do you suppose government is very solicitous of organizations like the AARP?

            HAH! so Dick Cheney's Enrgy Taskforce listened to consumer, environmental, and science groups but not the petroleum industry? WRONG! About all they listened to was the petroleum, natural gas, and nuclear industries.

            Falcon
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Your argument, as many have pointed out... is based in an ideal fantasy of what our Government should be. Bill Gates may only be allowed to donate a couple grand PERSONALLY, but every non-profit, company etc he exerts enough influence over to dictate policy (i.e. a few hundred more than likely) can EACH give a politician a couple grand. Adds up fast, and making one man happy for that much money is a hell of a lot easier than make lots of people happy for a $10 each (the most a politician can realistically h
            • ... and sat in on the meeting where MS reps offered him a rather substantial bribe if he would help make it go away
              Did anybody happen to have an audio recorder in that meeting, by chance?
              • If I could get ahold of an audio recording of the conversation believe me I would have made sure it got to people who would use it by now. Unfortunately no proof means no case :(
      • by thegnu (557446)
        I also agree with you in theory. The special caveat in this instance is that while complaints to the FCC are rising on the order of 100-fold, over 99% of them come from one ultra-conservative lobbying group [slashdot.org]

        Lobbyist groups aren't a de facto evil. Just usually. And specifically in this case.
        • by ppanon (16583)
          What the FCC really needs is a moderating mechanisms where the 90% of the American people that wouldn't get caught dead being associated with said ultra-conservative lobbying group can vote on those complaints as being specious and trollish.

          If 20 or 100 times as many people would find ridiculous a complaint about a particular show, as compared to the number of people who actually complained about that show, then those complaints should be summarily dismissed.

          The problem is that most people right now have no
      • "Lobbyist" is just a short way to say "a representative of a group of citizens who all have some common interest and pool their money to hire someone to let elected officials know how they feel (and will vote)."

        In the real world, when in context of this thread, you have to replace "citizens" with "corporations". See, the problem is that this ISN'T about individuals forming groups which then lobby the government. It is about corporations -- which are answerable to a faceless group of shareholders (who have

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Quadraginta (902985)
          I'm sorry, this is just silly. A "corporation" is not a space alien from Mars, either.

          I mean, are you self-employed, unemployed, or what? Don't you work for a "corporation"? If so, then like me, you know that a "corporation" is a collection of workers and managers plus a base of satisfied investors and customers. (Please note you can't be a successful corporation without the latter.)

          In other words, a corporation represents quite a large group of citizens, and they're all tied together by some significan
          • by Knara (9377) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @07:36PM (#20845083)

            Actually corporations are interesting legal fictions that have some limited "personhood", except without the natural lifetime restrains of a human being.

            Again, you have some idealistic ideas of how this whole thing works, but in actuality those spending the most amount of money on lobbying are not concerned citizens or corporations made of politically active workers, but rather very narrowly populated corporate leadership populations making a concerted effort to encourage legislation that furthers their interest, and hopefully to the detriment of their competitors' and/or opponents interests. This is, of course, done because it furthers the shareholders' interests, but nonetheless, the rosy picture you paint of corporate social structures is... shall we say... idealistic?

            We worked fine without corporations for a long time between Neanderthals (which we likely never were, btw) and the modern day. Companies served that function just fine, though corporations do provide some useful legal shielding to their constituents/leadership.

          • Most of your waking life you spend working, not on vacation, being a producer, not a consumer.

            Unless you're a workaholic or sleepaholic you're wrong. With 168 hours in a week if you sleep 8 hours a day that leaves 112 hours. Fulltime work in the US is 40 hours. That leaves 62 hours you don't work That's enough tyme for two fulltime jobs.

            It's far more traumatic to lose your job, or become disabled and unable to work

            I certainly know that. More than 10 years ago I was hit in an accident that lef

      • by dwandy (907337)
        Maybe what you're doing, in the hysterical spirit of the times, is confusing lobbying ("speaking up about what you want to your elected officials") with campaign contributions.(bribing elected officials). They're not the same...

        there. ...fixed it for you.

      • A company is not a citizen. And the people working for it don't behave like ordinary citizens. Generally speaking, their behavior is highly colored by the lens of fiduciary responsibility, a requirement placed on them by terms of their employment to see not to their needs or the needs of the citizens of this country, but rather for the self interests of the company in and of itself. Your twice-bolded use of the word "citizens," therefore, ought be viewed with a rather jaundiced eye.

        C//
      • by langelgjm (860756)

        "Lobbyist" is just a short way to say "a representative of a group of citizens who all have some common interest and pool their money to hire someone to let elected officials know how they feel (and will vote)."

        While that may be the dictionary definition, the reality is nothing like this. First of all, "lobbyists" mean only those representatives with enough cash to make legislators pay attention. When that cash is called "campaign contributions", it's not corruption or bribery; it's perfectly legal. Now, d

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by big_paul76 (1123489)
        OK, but when most people say "lobbyists", what they're actually talking about is a system by which we have basically institutionalized corruption, in that those with more financial resources have better access to lawmakers.

        Furthermore, I'd like to come down on the side rejecting categorically the notion that _everything_ is interest based.

        Yes, most of us have interests, economic or otherwise. But can there be no space, in government, for someone to take the dis-interested point of view, that is, to be conce
      • by iamwahoo2 (594922)
        Well, I have no lobbyists that represent my interests. By all means, if you are represented by lobbyists, then you should support what they do.
      • by torstenvl (769732)
        You might feel smug about your +5 Insightful rating. You might think that it somehow validates your post, that it somehow makes you right. I know I sometimes feel that way. But here's the thing: it doesn't, and you aren't.

        The logical result of your ideal is aristocracy; only the upper echelons of an industry have lobbying power. In the debate over overtime exemption, who do the lobbyists represent: Microsoft or the programmers? The programmers aren't teenagers in their mother's basement, and to contend othe
      • by Kwesadilo (942453)

        From TFA:

        Though the report concludes the FCC generally follows its rulemaking processes, it also found that advocates who represent consumer and public interests said they were not always informed about issues up for vote, or when the right time would be to meet with FCC staff.
        The report calls this discrepancy an "imbalance of information" and says that it "runs contrary to the principles of transparency and equal opportunity."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by camperslo (704715)
      Not only is the FCC failing to protect the public interest when selling out to those that profit, they've buried study results [cbsnews.com] showing some of the harm it has done.

      After a pirate station was shut down by the FCC, free speech and public access to the airwaves issues were raised, along with the idea that additional lower power stations might be added without causing significant interference. But when rules were finally implemented, it was done in such a way that the vast majority of the allocations went to r
      • BS!!! Freedom of Speech was guarantied expressly, though not only, for political speech.

        Let's see the FCC bring back restrictions on the ownership of stations, require most to be locally owned, require no financial ties to news, political and public affairs programming, and restrictions on the type and amount of advertising carried.

        Wrong again. Instead of adding FCC regulations, let's get rid of the FCC all to together. The FCC and it's predecessors were created in an era of scarcity of airwaves. W

      • Letting marketplace "competition" work for the public good has been a dismal failure.
        It works when there's real competition in the marketplace. When 2 or 3 companies own 80% of the stations in any market (and thus the editorial policies here), and 'little people' who want to get their views out on the airwaves get (legislatively) shoved out of the market, there is no competition (but there is a good deal of profit).

        I just wanted to make that explicit.

    • by GooberToo (74388)
      I'd bet money if an investigation into the FAA were performed, the same type of screwing of the public would be discovered. Right now the airlines, working with the FAA, are doing everything possible to screw over the paying public and to get out from under government funding oversight. Meanwhile hundreds of millions of the FAA's funding go unaccounted.

      You want dangerous skies, higher ticket prices, and less government oversight of the airlines, make sure you don't do anything to contact your representati
  • Accountability! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cez (539085) * <info@historystar ... m ['gye' in gap]> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:50PM (#20843181) Homepage

    The FCC responded to the report saying that it feels its processes are always open and transparent and that Chairman Kevin Martin is looking for ways to make the commissions workings even more transparent and open.
    Of course they feel that way. I feellike I should get a million dollars for this post. That doesn't make it happen.


    The GAO obviously feels like they are not transparent, as the report indicates. How bout some actual accountability from the Government Accountability Office now? What are they going to do about it?


    Besides hurting their feelings

    • Re:Accountability! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot.pitabred@dyndns@org> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:59PM (#20843297) Homepage
      Unfortunately, hurting feelings is about the extent of the powers of the GAO [wikipedia.org] from what I understand. They make reports, and that's about it. They don't hold anyone accountable, they just say that someone should be accountable.
      • Re:Accountability! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:30PM (#20843707) Journal
        That's not their job. They're not supposed to have enforcement power. Not that it's not an attractive mental image to have an elite squad of GAO commando's busting into an FCC meeting, grabbing corrupt politicians and hauling their asses off to PMTA prison, but that's not what they do.

        A congressman asks the GAO, "Hey is playing fair? Are they doing what they're supposed to do?"

        GAO does some research, and responds, "Nope."

        Then Congress has the opportunity to bust out massive whoopass, slash their funding, sell their children into slavery, etc, etc...They have the ability to do all kinds of enforcement, and even pass it up the line to the executive, who can call in the commandos, etc.

        Though they probably won't do anything, because when does Congress ever do anything good? But they could, and that's how the system is supposed to work.
        • Dammit. Forgot to escape my brackets. That should be:

          A congressman asks the GAO, "Hey is *insert name of organization* playing fair? Are they doing what they're supposed to do?"
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          They have the ability to do all kinds of enforcement, and even pass it up the line to the executive, who can call in the commandos, etc.

          Up the line? Don't you mean down the line? The executive is supposed to be weaker than the legislative.

          • by Knara (9377)

            I'd argue "pass on to" the Executive, since (ideally) they're all supposed to be working towards the common good.

          • by d'fim (132296)
            What part of "three co-equal branches of government" don't you get?
            • The executive was intended to be weaker than the legislative. You can't have them all be exactly equal, you know...
          • by deficite (977718)
            Sadly, the American people have let the executive branch expand in such a way that to the average citizen you have a president (which is sort of like a king to a lot of people), and then you have congress, which is like a group of bickering advisors to the president. Then you have the supreme court, which is a bunch of liberal hippies that try to ruin all those good laws that we pass. Don't believe the average American feels that way? Start talking to the average American.
        • by cez (539085) *
          But they could, and that's how the system is supposed to work.


          It's not a bug, it's a feature! ^^)

        • This congress does not even have the teeth to override a veto for Children's insurance, let alone sell them into slavery.

          This is the most spineless, gutless, toothless congress critter i have EVER seen.

          In 1990s, the republican congress stopped the country by refusing to pass the budget. This congress cannot even override a veto for the Children's sake,
          • Let's putt he blame where it resides.. the 40+ members of congress who won't support a vote to overturn the veto...

            Now if this was for fetus insurance i'm sure all of the republicans would have voted for it.. but since the children are already born they are shit out of luck.
      • by Macdude (23507)
        Unfortunately, hurt feelings is about the extent of the powers of the GAO from what I understand.

        Exactly, the GAO is not an enforcement arm of your government, it's an investigative arm. Democratic Senator Edward Markey reqested the report and the GAO investigated the situation and reported back. The ball in now in Senator Markey's hands, it's his job to "do something about it".
      • They're just the investigative arm of Congress.
    • by phatvw (996438) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:10PM (#20843465)
      Actual report: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071046.pdf [gao.gov]

      Report Summary http://gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-07-1046 [gao.gov]

      Telecommunications: FCC Should Take Steps to Ensure Equal Access to Rulemaking Information
      GAO-07-1046 September 6, 2007
      Highlights Page (PDF) Full Report (PDF, 34 pages)

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 established that FCC should promote competition and reduce regulation to secure lower prices and higher-quality services for American consumers. FCC implements its policy aims through rulemaking, whereby the agency notifies the public of a proposed rule and provides an opportunity for the public to participate in the rule's development. These rulemakings are documented within a public docket that contains the rulemaking record. In response to a congressional request on FCC rulemaking, GAO (1) described FCC's rulemaking process; (2) determined, for specific rulemakings, the extent to which FCC followed its process; and (3) identified factors that contributed to some dockets and rulemakings remaining open. GAO reviewed recent FCC rules, interviewed FCC officials and stakeholders, and conducted case studies of rulemakings.

      FCC's rulemaking process includes multiple steps as outlined by law, with several opportunities for public participation. FCC generally begins the process by releasing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and establishing a docket to gather information submitted by the public or developed within FCC to support the proposed rule. Outside parties may meet with FCC officials but must file a disclosure in the docket, called an ex parte filing, that includes any new data or arguments presented at the meeting. FCC analyzes information in the docket and drafts a final rule for the commission to adopt. The FCC chairman decides which rules the commission will consider and whether to adopt them by vote at a public meeting or by circulating them to each commissioner for approval. Stakeholders unsatisfied with a rule may file a petition for reconsideration with the commission or petition for review in federal court. FCC generally followed the rulemaking process in the four case studies of completed rulemakings that GAO reviewed, but several stakeholders had access to nonpublic information. Specifically, each of the four rulemakings included steps as required by law and opportunities for public participation. Within the case studies, most ex parte filings complied with FCC rules. However, in the case studies and in discussions with other stakeholders that regularly participate in FCC rulemakings, multiple stakeholders generally knew when the commission scheduled votes on proposed rules well before FCC notified the public. FCC rules prohibit disclosing this information outside of FCC. Other stakeholders said that they cannot learn when rules are scheduled for a vote until FCC releases the public meeting agenda, at which time FCC rules prohibit stakeholders from lobbying FCC. As a result, stakeholders with advance information about which rules are scheduled for a vote would know when it is most effective to lobby FCC, while stakeholders without this information would not. The complexity and number of rulemakings within a docket and the priority the commission places on a rulemaking contribute to dockets and rulemakings remaining open. The commission determines when to open and close a docket and which rulemakings are a priority; therefore, the commission determines how a docket and rulemaking progress. Dockets and the rulemakings within them may remain open because the dockets are broad and include multiple rulemakings, or because the commission has not yet voted to close the dockets even though they include completed rules. Within dockets, some rule
    • How bout some actual accountability from the Government Accountability Office now? What are they going to do about it?

      The GAO doesn't have the authority to change anything. All they can do is investigate for Congress then congress has to debate the issue and try to pass a bill.

      Falcon
      • by bar-agent (698856)
        The GAO doesn't have the authority to change anything. All they can do is investigate for Congress then congress has to debate the issue and try to pass a bill.

        Don't see how Congress has a role here. After all, the FCC rules are already in the law, it's just that the FCC is violating those laws. This sounds like a job for the Executive branch, charged with enforcing law!

        Wait...the FCC is part of the Executive branch. Well, shit.
        • Don't see how Congress has a role here. After all, the FCC rules are already in the law, it's just that the FCC is violating those laws. This sounds like a job for the Executive branch, charged with enforcing law!

          Congress has at least two tools it can use, three really. First congress holds the purse strings and if an executive office won't uphold it's mandate it can withhold funds as well. Secondly congress can sue the executive branch, which as you say the FCC is part of, in the Supreme Court. Thi

  • A little too much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:53PM (#20843213)

    the Federal Communications Commissions has been favoring lobbyists a little too much
    "a little too much" ? Isn't that like saying "the government is committing crimes a little too much" ?

    Any amount of favoring lobbyists is a problem. I'm not saying lobbyists can't exist. But the (idealized) purpose of a lobbyist is to bring pertinent information and arguments to the attention of political officials. They should have no political influence beyond the persuasiveness of their arguments and the truthfulness of the data they present.

    Perhaps I'm getting overly agitated by a simple little comment... but I am troubled by the fact that people increasingly accept that lobbyists will be able to influence the democratic process, and that their influence has to be balanced against other influences (e.g. voter opinion). This is not how it should be! Lobbyists should have no influence per se. As I said, the only thing that should matter is valid arguments about what is best for the populace.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, in theory, lobbyist are a healthy part of a representative democracy. Lobbyists do in fact represent a certain number of people, giving them a greater voice. That's pretty much how the House of Representatives works. Each district sends a lobbyist to lobby on behalf of that section of people. I'd say lobbyists are even a better idea, because they are supported by people who all have a common cause, not just a by-chance geographical proximity.

      However, the problem with lobbyists today is that thei

      • Why do we even have the FCC? The government needs to deregulate communications to encourage competition, take for instance the OS market that M$ with its illegal business practices manage to have a monopoly, next look at sky high cell phone fees all of these could benefit with government deregulation, I don't want my (far too high) tax dollars going to support MS, or any other company that only keeps its position due to flawed laws created by lobbyists with far too much power under companies with 0% innovat
        • by gmack (197796)
          It could be argued that the rules should be more relaxed and consumer friendly but if not for the FCC the airwaves would be chaos.. consider any system where the largest power could drown out anyone else's signal.

          I for one am glad my cell phone doesn't need to overpower other signal sources and can use the lowest possible transmission power wich results in better battery lives.
          • by Smidge204 (605297) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @06:38PM (#20844507) Journal
            That's what the FCC is supposed to do. That's what it was created to do: Make sure everybody's toys will play nice with everybody else's toys.

            Unfortunately, there are two other functions the FCC performs: One is to effectively act as a national censorship bureau. I fail to see any real need for a federal agency with the power to create AND enforce "decency laws" for public broadcast media.

            The other is to act as an overseeing body for companies that deal with the first two functions (EM spectrum and public media). This is another bullshit function IMHO, and in context of this article the most blatantly corrupt seen in the federal government in a long while.

            Regulating the radio frequencies is good and useful. We do not need a federal nanny and corporate shill along with it.
            =Smidge=
          • It could be argued that the rules should be more relaxed and consumer friendly but if not for the FCC the airwaves would be chaos.. consider any system where the largest power could drown out anyone else's signal.

            Beyond a point no matter how much power a radio station has it's signal will be drowned out by competitors's signals. About all that's gained by increasing power is increasing distance but even then there are limits, shortwaves go further than longer waves. The only way any broadcaster would b

        • Sky high phone bills? All I have is a cellphone. My bill for it is lower than the bill I had when I had a landline phone. And that doesn't count long distance calls, with the landline phone I had to pay for long distance however my cellphone plan covers them, I pay no more for long distance than I do local calls.

          Falcon
      • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:32PM (#20843737) Homepage

        The problem is not the practice of lobbying, but the endless need for money to campaign with. Since we don't have any effective spending limits and flimsy donation rules, the problem can only get worse.
        In other words, this is transforming a Representative Democracy into a Plutocracy (and an Oligarchic one at that, though that doesn't follow from what you said).
      • by maxume (22995)
        Lobbyists can only donate as much as voters will stand for; where's the problem?
    • by Solandri (704621)

      the Federal Communications Commissions has been favoring lobbyists a little too much

      "a little too much" ? Isn't that like saying "the government is committing crimes a little too much" ?

      Any amount of favoring lobbyists is a problem. I'm not saying lobbyists can't exist. But the (idealized) purpose of a lobbyist is to bring pertinent information and arguments to the attention of political officials. They should have no political influence beyond the persuasiveness of their arguments and the truthfuln

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:57PM (#20843261)
    If big business wants it, it's obviously good for the American people! The market has spoken!
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:01PM (#20843331)

    The FCC responded to the report saying that it feels its processes are always open and transparent and that Chairman Kevin Martin is looking for ways to make the commissions workings even more transparent and open.
    I have a suggestion for you, Kevin: why not post HERE when an issue is about to come up for a vote, instead of keeping it a secret from everyone until it's too late? That would be even more transparent and open than your current strategy of secretly alerting your buddies beforehand with their obvious conflicts of interest while the public is kept in the dark. Someone in the FCC owns too much stock in the industry they're supposed to be regulating.
  • by Cleon (471197) <{cleon42} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:15PM (#20843517) Homepage
  • This isn't surprising to someone who pays only a minimal amount of attention to the decisions and reasoning presented by the FCC. The people at the top of this government department do nice things for their friends (telcos mainly) and in turn they get nice cushy jobs when they get done with their tenure at the FCC.
  • by Zondar (32904) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:30PM (#20843717)
    Verizon FIOS and the 'disconnecting copper' claims. FCC looks the other way.

    Broadband over Power Line and all the resultant RF interference... FCC manipulates measurement techniques, breaks it's own rules... Even international organizations say BPL causes excessive RF interference. FCC looks the other way. FCC brought to court.
  • The American Radio Relay League (ham radio national org) is suing the FCC in Federal Court over its overt bias towards Broadband-Over-Power-Line systems. Apparently technical details mean nothing these days. Its all politics and lobbying. See www.arrl.org for details
    • by gbobeck (926553)

      See www.arrl.org for details

      For those who want a direct link to the relevant section about BPL, here it is... http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/ [arrl.org]

      73
      W9QNY
      • by LM741N (258038)
        Thanks,

        I decided the day I learned html was the day I was doomed, lol- after programming in 6 other languages over the years.

        Also a better title would have been "Hams only ones to fight the FCC" or something like that.

  • I've worked in radio for several years now and I was never really bothered by FCC regulations until I started researching the commission for a paper for school. They have so many biased, unnecessary, and out-dated codes it's ridiculous. I'm not surprised there's any sort of bribery or leaning going on.
    If The FCC were a private corporation it would have been broken up as a Monopoly LONG ago.
  • Rock on, GAO! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @06:35PM (#20844467)
    Is it just me, or has the GAO been a bright ray of honesty and objectivity in a government that otherwise continuously erodes our respect?

Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine

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