The FCC's Sisyphean Task

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[Commentary] Sisyphus, you may recall from high school days, was sentenced to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill only to watch it roll back down. Section 202(h) of the 1996 Telecommunications Act gave the Federal Communications Commission the Sisyphean task of reviewing all of its broadcast ownership rules every two years (later extended to four) and determining whether each of them continue to be "necessary in the public interest."

On April 15, the FCC voted to start the latest Section 202(h) proceeding by issuing an order initiating the 2014 Quadrennial Review. Even though the FCC has attempted to wrap the last Quadrennial Review into the new one, the Commission has already been hauled into court, and more judicial proceedings will take place even as the FCC receives and considers comments from interested parties.

From a public interest perspective, there are positive and negative aspects to what the FCC did, and didn’t do, in starting the 2014 Quadrennial Review. This post focuses on those aspects of the FCC’s action and related matters along the way.

The most complicated part of all this is just beginning. Whenever the FCC does anything important, somebody takes it to court. Three appeals (technically, they are “petitions for review”) have been filed with respect to the April 15 decision in the District of Columbia. Once it is finally determined which court or courts will hear the appeals, briefs will be filed, probably by early fall.

Then there will be an oral argument, perhaps by the end of the year or early next year. Meanwhile, the FCC will be accepting comments on the 2014 Quadrennial Review, with a decision also likely early 2015. Then, depending on what has already happened in the courts, everyone will appeal that decision. After that, everyone can look forward to the 2018 Quadrennial Review, when it starts all over again.

The FCC's Sisyphean Task