An Enemy End Run

In submarine battle tactics there is a maneuver called an “end run,” where a submarine basically either speeds up or slows down to maneuvers into a prime shooting position out of the detection range of its quarry.
It’s an attempt by someone to end the game by throwing out the rules; to get the drop on the enemy before they even have a chance to do anything about it.
An end run is happening right now in the form of Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin. He’s a Republican who the NAB has in its pocket – his daughter even works for them.
Tauzin happens to be the Chairman of the Telecommunications Subcommittee, a subsidiary of the powerful House Commerce Committee. Tauzin and those on his committee directly oversee the FCC. The NAB alerted him to the agency’s LPFM rulemaking and as of now he’s on a warpath, ready to take the FCC to task for daring to propose more diversity on the dial. He could use his clout effectively kill LPFM before the FCC can take another step with it.
But the word is out. There are two ways to retaliate: let your own Congressperson know what’s going on, and have them express their support of the FCC and its LPFM work so far to Billy Tauzin in particular. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact Tauzin’s committee members as well.
Don Schellhardt, co-founder of the Amherst Alliance, has some interesting perspectives on the whole “Congressional question,” and wrote to me about it exactly two weeks ago. Ironically enough, it’s about another kind of end-run the NAB might try. Get those fingers limbered up – the comment deadline on the LPFM rulemaking is April 12, and writing those is the most important thing of all.
Don writes:
On the specific issue of MICRORADIO aka Low Power FM aka Low Power Broadcasting aka Low Power Radio Service (the FCC’s new term):
This is a matter where FCC action is discretionary. Current federal statutes neither require nor prohibit licensing of Low Power Radio. Therefore, if the NAB doesn’t like what the FCC is doing, it has to recruit Congress and/or the courts to override the Commission.
Because the NAB will have to wait until there is a final rule to challenge in court, and because the NAB has more friends in Congress than it has good arguments for a courtroom, I believe that the first NAB line of counterattack — if there is an NAB counterattack — will be in Congress.
Again, however, this is an area where the FCC has discretion under current law. Therefore, if Congress plans to block FCC action on this issue, it has to write and enact a new law. And that ain’t easy!
The Good News is from High School Civics: A bill has to pass the House Committee, the full House, the Senate Committee and the full Senate AND the House/Senate Conference that tries to iron out any differences. And, after that, it has to be signed by the President. That’s a lot of hoops for a 2-year time frame! Remember: When a 2-year Session of Congress adjourns, any bill that hasn’t been enacted will have to go all the way back to Square One in a NEW Session of Congress.
The Bad News is from The Real World: A harmless-looking provision to “gut” the FCC’s authority to license LPRS could get slipped quietly into a complex and popular bill, like Disaster Relief, as a “rider” (aka “a Christmas tree ornament”). Hidden in a complicated maze of politically popular “goodies”, it could be voted into law with most legislators not even knowing the provision is in there!
We need to have friends on the Hill — legislators AND staffers — who will “read the fine print” and alert us if anyone tries an “end run” like this!! Often, all you need to do to kill an underhanded maneuver of this nature is expose it to the light of day. So we need some “Guards On The Hill” to sound the alarm!!
Don Schellhardt
Co-Petitioner, FCC DOCKET RM-9208
B.A. Wesleyan (CT); J.D. George Washington (DC)
Formerly with the professional staffs of a retired congressman, the EPA, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation