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Business News (more headlines) 06-27-2003

Senate Commerce Committee Passes FCC Reauthorization Act

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Washington, DC – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today approved by voice vote, S. 1264, the Federal Communications Commission Reauthorization Act of 2003. Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Hollings (D-SC) introduced the legislation on June 13, 2003.

This legislation is designed to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This independent agency has not been reauthorized since 1991.

The bill does the following:

· Reauthorizes the Commission through fiscal year 2008. It would require that all application and regulatory fees paid to the Commission be deposited with the Commission subject to Appropriations;

· Establishes the timing and the standard the FCC will use for reviewing its broadcast ownership rules and lengthens from two years to four years, the interval between reviews.

· Bans any payment or reimbursement for travel costs for FCC officials or staff from a nongovernmental sponsor of a convention, conference, or meeting, but authorizes additional funds to permit the FCC to pay these costs.

· Authorizes the Commission to allocate sufficient funds to be used for an audit of the e-rate program to determine whether any fraud or abuse has occurred during the operation of the program.

· Provides the FCC the authority to promulgate regulations necessary to require video descriptions of television programming to assist those who are visually impaired.

· Prevents successful bidders for spectrum at FCC auctions to avoid their obligations to the Federal government by filing for bankruptcy.

The Committee also adopted the following amendments to S. 1264:

· A perfecting amendment by Senator McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Hollings (D-SC) to extend the authorization to 2008; to require the Commission to initiate a proceeding to determine whether it is economically and technically feasible to include the "crawlers" in the video description rules; and other technical changes.

· An amendment by Senator McCain to require the FCC to initiate a proceeding to provide guidance regarding its political advertising regulations, and to adopt procedures to resolve complaints regarding political ads.

· An amendment by Senator Hollings to provide additional sanctions for the broadcast of obscene or indecent matter. · An amendment by Senator Stevens (R-AK) to direct the FCC to undertake a rulemaking with respect to digital translators in rural areas.

· An amendment by Senator Sununu (D-NH) to provide for quadrennial review of the media ownership rules by the FCC.

· An amendment by Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) to phase out the attribution discount permitted for UHF television stations.

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