Government Report: January 21, 2011

AAF Government Report

January 21, 2011

Clark Rector Jr., Executive Vice President – Government Affairs

Daniella Martinez, Federation Intern

Indecency Battle Ongoing

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and U.S. Department of Justice have asked the 2nd Court of Appeals to review a July ruling that overturned the Commission’s ability to fine broadcasters for indecent content. Meanwhile, the Parents Television Council is hoping Congress will keep indecency off the airwaves. New House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., has authored indecency bills in the past and has hinted he may do so again. Upton has promised to curb indecency in public broadcasting, protect children in online environments, and support transparency in the video game rating system.

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Net Neutrality Rules Under Fire

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will introduce resolutions in the coming weeks aimed at blocking the FCC’s recently adopted net neutrality order. While the resolution is likely to pass in both the House and Senate, Congressional aides expect it to be vetoed by President Obama.

In a related development, Verizon Communications filed a federal lawsuit against the net neutrality rules. The company maintains that the FCC does not have jurisdiction over how Internet service providers handle content over their networks. They have hired lead attorney Helgi Walker, who last year represented Comcast in a successful effort to overturn FCC sanctions against Comcast for blocking web traffic. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton commented that in its net neutrality rules the FCC is “acting beyond the authority granted to it by Congress.”

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NBC-Comcast merger gets FCC approval

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is allowing Comcast and NBC Universal to merge, with certain conditions. Comcast will own 51% of the entity, which will include the nation’s largest broadband Internet provider, one of four national broadcast networks, local NBC affiliates, film studios and a theme park. With certain members of Congress worry that the merger will lead to higher bills and less choice for consumers, Comcast-NBCU is promising to maintain the current level of local programming, increase children’s and independent programming, and make Internet access more affordable and available to approximately 2.5 million low income households. The FCC is requiring that the venture ensure its content is available to competing cable providers as well as rival online video sources for at least seven years in an effort to limit Comcast’s influence over the growing online video market.

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Ranking Democrats on Energy and Commerce Subcommittees Chosen

The House Democratic Caucus has chosen ranking member for the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees. They are:

Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Anna Eshoo, Calif.
Subcommittee on Energy and Power G.K. Butterfield, N.C.
Subcommittee on Health Frank Pallone, N.J.
Subcommittee on Environment Gene Green, Texas
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Diana DeGette, Colo.

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