US Senator Proposes Bill to Strengthen FCC

17 June 2003

A new US bill plans to raise the fines imposed by the Federal Communications Commission tenfold and give the agency new powers.

Introduced by John McCain (Republican, Arizona), the legislation will be considered by the Senate Commerce Committee he chairs on Thursday. It has already gained the support of influential senator Ernest Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina).

McCain is proposing that the interval between FCC reviews of media ownership law should be increased from the present two years to five. The bill also clarifies that the agency should have the power to introduce new rules as well as remove existing ones. This follows FCC chairman Michael Powell’s comments that there is now an inherent bias towards deregulation in the review process.

Moreover, the proposals would increase the FCC’s clout by increasing the amount it can fine companies for violations, raising the maximum penalty for broadcasters tenfold to $250,000 (€210,785; £148,400). Satellite operators would no longer be exempt from fines.

However, in a swipe at the FCC’s current dealings, McCain plans to crack down on the cosy relationship that is seen to exist between the agency and the communications industry. The bill would prevent companies and lobby groups from footing the bill for FCC officials travelling to conferences and meetings. It would also ban top industry executives from lobbying for one year after leaving their posts.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff