Walden to Appear on C-SPAN’s Communicators

May 24, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) will appear on C-SPAN’s Communicators program this weekend to discuss the panel’s upcoming agenda. Click here to watch online now or on C-SPAN on Saturday, May 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Walden sees straight path ahead on STELA
By Tony Romm

The House’s top telecom panel hasn’t decided how and whether to reauthorize a key satellite TV bill — but the committee’s chairman, Rep. Greg Walden, said his “hunch” is that any legislation will end up “being a pretty clean act.”

Walden stressed during an interview on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” that he plans to “continue down a very methodical path” as the committee weighs the Satellite Television and Extension and Localism Act, which expires at the end of 2014.

That might mean the committee proceeds with “one thing at a time, and not have all of these other things” in cable and telecom policy attached to what many regard as a must-pass bill, the Oregon Republican said. For now, he emphasized he hasn’t yet “honed in” on how he’ll proceed in the debate.

“We have people who say, ‘You don’t have to do anything; let it expire, the marketplace has changed.’ We have people who say, ‘Oh no, you just have to authorize it very narrowly.’ And then there’s a whole collection of folks who say, ‘That’s going to be a must-pass bill, so add on this, that and the other thing,’” the chairman said during the interview, co-hosted by POLITICO and airing this weekend.

Whatever the path Walden takes, it’ll add a heavy lift to an already packed docket at the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which is focused just as much on wireless spectrum, FCC oversight and process reform.

As those debates continue, the agency regulated in part by Walden’s subcommittee is changing: Mignon Clyburn is the FCC’s new acting chairwoman, and she’ll serve in the lead spot until the president can secure confirmation for Tom Wheeler in the top spot and a still-unnamed GOP commissioner.

Walden said he has a positive relationship with Clyburn and offered plenty of praise. He said he didn’t believe her tenure should or would impact the telecom agency as it continues writing rules for its historic incentive auction program.

“We need to meet our deadlines, they need to meet theirs, [and] we need to continue the active oversight,” Walden said.

With Wheeler, though, Walden acknowledged he had some reservations. While the chairman praised the president’s unconfirmed FCC pick for his business acumen, Walden still reaffirmed his skepticism on Wheeler’s past writings on telecom transactions.

The FCC “shouldn’t use the extraordinary power it has to approve or deny a merger to exercise market changes it can’t do through a regulatory environment,” said Walden, referring to Wheeler’s beliefs in merger conditions as “offensive, frankly, from a public policy standpoint.”

That’s partly motivated House Republicans for years to seek reforms at the FCC — another item on Walden’s agenda, albeit one that has become a political football between House GOP leaders who want to rein in the agency and Democrats who feel the FCC instead needs more teeth.

To that end, Walden said the subcommittee definitely would return to the issue. While he praised since-departed Chairman Julius Genachowski for some of his reforms, the lawmaker said the agency needed additional checks to keep it on schedule and ensure it doesn’t slip under new leadership.

“When you’re gone as chair,” Walden said in reference to Genachowski, “you can have another chairman come in of a different party or persuasion, or even one like you, who has a whole different management style, and all your reforms are gone.”

The chairman declined to specify when or how he’d move with reform on the panel. And just as uncertain is the next steps in what may be a multi-year fight over the country’s cable, broadcasting and satellite laws, including STELA. While some in the Senate want to re-examine the retransmission consent system as part of the process, Walden said he’s “not convinced” it needs to be rewritten given the spate of agreements recently signed. As others in the upper chamber like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are pushing anew for a la carte cable viewing, Walden only went as far as to acknowledge the “pros and cons” of that legislation.

“The video world is going through enormous change,” Walden said. “I think [it’s] a huge paradigm shift right before our eyes.”

Story reprinted with permission.