House Committee OKS Bill to Curb FCC in Merger Reviews

A House committee voted to advance a Republican-sponsored bill to limit concessions the Federal Communications Commission can require of companies seeking approval to merge.

The 31-16 vote today by the Energy and Commerce Committee sends the bill on for consideration by the full House. No action has been scheduled for a version introduced in the Senate.

The bill sponsored by Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, would prevent the FCC from setting limits on a merging company’s behavior that aren’t related to the transaction. The measure, H.R. 3309, also would require the FCC to identify a harm to be remedied before adopting rules, and to publish regulations before it votes upon them.

The FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, has improved its procedures, Walden said yesterday as the hearing on the bill began.

“However, even this commission has overreached its statutory authority and been less than open and transparent in its rulemaking, and we need to lock in reform,” Walden said, according to a statement.

Democrats criticized the bill, with Representative Henry Waxman of California saying it would “disable the FCC, not reform it.”

He added in a statement that “this legislation would tie the agency in knots and subject it to endless legal challenges.”

Walden earlier said he was troubled that the FCC requires conditions from merging companies. He cited Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s pledge last year not to interfere unfairly with subscribers’ Web traffic, which the Philadelphia-based company gave as it won approval to buy NBC Universal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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