Sunday, November 16, 2008

Losing Faith in the FCC

In his article, Dunbar describes how the FCC has become a heavily lobbied government institution. His theories of “The Spinning Door,” “Frequent Flyers,” and “Behind Closed Doors,” describe how FCC officials have handled their business in a questionable and unethical manner, becoming too close with the industry they are supposed to be regulating. “The Spinning Door” theory describes how FCC officials are often former industry executives, or vice versa. By employing officials who have their hands in both the industry and the government agency, it makes it impossible to properly perform independent investigations of the industries. “Frequent Flyers” describes how FCC members accept travel and entertainment money from the industries they are supposed to be regulating. Over the past eight years, the FCC has accepted almost $2.8 million from outside sources. The agency defends these gifts by saying it is important to educate regulators on important issues, and those regulators may have not been able to afford the trips otherwise. Doubts are still raised, however, that there is an improper, relaxed relationship between the FCC and the industry. Furthermore, FCC officials often conduct business meetings in secret, as described in the “Behind Closed Doors,” theory. It describes how these meetings, while legal under FCC regulations, are not recorded and minutes are not taken. The FCC states that they wish to conduct their meetings out of the public eye, while others are still skeptical.

Government officials have always, and will always, be lobbied by outside forces. However, at some point one needs to say enough is enough. It’s personally disappointing to hear how extreme these actions are. FCC members should act with integrity and uphold some moral practices, whether they are technical legal within FCC guidelines or not. Taking extravagant trips, holding private meetings, and hiring those involved in the industry make it virtually impossible to regulate the industries properly. It’s disheartening to know that our taxes are paying for corrupt agencies. At the end of the article, Powell states that sometimes the lobbying gets out of hand and has gone too far. If Powell has publicly acknowledged this, then he is aware that the conduct of the FCC with the industry is inappropriate and should come to an end. This article was written in 2003. Five years later, I am not sure that anything significant has happened to change the internal workings of the FCC. I agree with Powell, however, that the FCC “needs to do their work rather than hear pitches.” I can only hope that future FCC regulations will prevent these questionable practices.

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