FCC Procedures Delay Release of Decision Documents

RCED-94-242: Published: Sep 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) procedures for releasing its decision documents, focusing on: (1) the timeliness of public releases of FCC decisions; (2) whether FCC release procedures contribute to delays in these releases; (3) how FCC release procedures compare to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) procedures; and (4) FCC controls to ensure that revisions are not voted on without commissioner approval.

GAO found that: (1) from 1990 through 1993, between 7 and 18 percent of all FCC decisions were released to the public more than 30 days after their adoption by FCC commissioners; (2) a greater percentage of circulated decisions are released more than 30 days after adoption, partially because circulated decisions are not subject to the 30-day release target that meeting decisions are subject to; (3) some of the delays in releasing FCC decisions are due to administrative procedures that allow for final editing of the decisions; (4) FCC commissioners do not agree on the specific decision language until after they have voted; (5) NRC and SEC commissioners generally complete their review and revision processes before they vote on a decision; (6) NRC releases meeting decisions on the day they are voted on and circulated decisions within 10 days after adoption; (7) although SEC does not have specific procedures for releasing decisions, it releases decisions with few exceptions within a couple of days of adoption; and (8) it cannot evaluate whether decisions are substantially revised after being voted on because FCC keeps only the originally distributed draft and the final released version of its decisions.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 13, 1994, FCC adopted written procedures requiring the Secretary to keep in FCC official files, a copy of the document on which the commissioners vote and the document publicly released. To ensure that all substantial post-adopted changes have been approved by each of the commissioners, FCC established a signoff procedure requiring each commissioner or his or her designee to approve all such changes.

    Recommendation: To ensure that FCC maintains adequate records and to allay potential criticism that released documents may not accurately reflect what the commissioners decided, the Chairman, FCC, should direct the Managing Director to establish written procedures to maintain a record of the document on which commissioners vote, along with the decision publicly released.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission


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