Thursday, February 25, 2016

O'Rielly Asks FCC to Stop Censoring Commissioners

On February 24, 2016, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly published a blog entitled “Stop Unfairly Censoring Commissioners.” Commissioner O’Rielly, who has published many blogs on process reform at the FCC, discusses the need for more transparency within the FCC rulemaking process. He argues that draft items should be released publicly, but at the very least, he says Commissioners and their staffs should be able to discuss items with the public, whether through blogs, tweets, fact sheets, or interviews. Commissioner O’Rielly stresses the importance of transparency and public feedback:
It is common sense that, if the Commission wants the strongest and most defensible items, it needs to talk to the outside world, including interested and affected parties.  This simple principle is embodied in the Administrative Procedure Act notice and comment rulemaking process.  Similarly, Commissioners also need the opportunity to discuss ideas, problems, and alternative ways to do things than the prescribed proposal contained in any draft item.  As it stands now, it is immensely frustrating to sit in ex parte meetings and be unable to test out other concepts and options or correct any misunderstandings of those in attendance.  But if we were to have such conversations today, my fellow Commissioners and I would risk potentially violating the Commission’s disclosure rule by revealing nonpublic information about items.  The end result is weaker Commission items.
Commissioner O’Rielly was the keynote speaker at the Free State Foundation’s July 2015 lunch seminar on FCC process reform, which can be viewed here. Free State Foundation President Randolph May has testified three times in front of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology regarding the need for process reform at the FCC (May 2015, July 2013, and June 2011). Mr. May also released two blogs in the summer of 2015 on this important topic, “Why Process Matters” and “Why Process Matters – Part II.”
Commissioner O’Rielly has been a strong leader on process reform at the FCC and we hope he continues his fight for more transparency and accountability at the Commission.