Federal Communications Commission

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency, created, directed, and empowered by Congressional statute.

The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 as the successor to the Federal Radio Commission and is charged with regulating all non-Federal Government use of the radio spectrum (including radio and television broadcasting), and all interstate telecommunications (wire, satellite and cable) as well as all international communications that originate or terminate in the United States. The FCC took over wire communication regulation from the Interstate Commerce Commission. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.

Contents

Organization

The FCC is directed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for 5-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term. The President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairperson. None of them can have a financial interest in any Commission-related business. By law only three Commissioners may be members of the same political party. However, this only applies to formal party registrations so it is possible to have three commissioners from the President's party and an independent who supports the President or even a member of the other party who supported the President, e.g. James Quello supported the election of Richard Nixon and was appointed as a Democrat.

As the chief executive officer of the Commission, the Chairman selects the agenda of the Commission and makes senior staff appointments. Some management and administrative responsibility is delegated to the Managing Director. The Commissioners, in theory, supervise all FCC activities, delegating responsibilities to staff units and Bureaus. But in recent years the FCC Chairman has detailed control over staff actions. The current FCC Chairman is Kevin Martin. The other four current Commissioners are Deborah Taylor Tate, Michael Copps, Kevin Martin, and Robert McDowell.

Regulatory powers

The Federal Communications Commission has one major regulatory weapon, revoking licenses, but short of that has little leverage over broadcast stations. It is reluctant to do this since it operates in a near vacuum of information on most of the tens of thousands of stations whose licences are renewed every three years. Broadcast licenses are supposed to be renewed if the station meets the "public interest, convenience, or necessity." The Federal Communications Commission rarely checks except for some outstanding reason; burden of proof would be on the complainant. Fewer than 1% of station renewals are not immediately granted, and only a small fraction of those are actually denied.

Note: Regulation of Federal Government radio spectrum use is vested in the President but delegated to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Contact information

Electronically

  • General information, inquiries & complaints: fccinfo@fcc.gov
  • Freedom of Information Act requests: FOIA@fcc.gov
  • Elections & political candidate matters: campaignlaw@fcc.gov

Phone or Fax

Voice: 1-888-225-5322 (1-888-CALL FCC)
Fax: (202) 418-0710

Mail

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554


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