Federal Communications Commission

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission (FCC), independent executive agency of the U.S. government established in 1934 to regulate interstate and foreign communications in the public interest. The FCC is composed of five members, not more than four of whom may be members of the same political party, appointed by the president with the consent of the U.S. Senate. The commissioners are authorized to classify television and radio stations, to assign broadcasting frequencies, and to prescribe the nature of their service. The FCC has jurisdiction over standard, high-frequency, relay, international, television, and facsimile broadcasting stations and also has authority over experimental, amateur, coastal, aviation, strip, and emergency radio services; telegraph and interstate telephone companies; cellular telephone and paging systems; satellite facilities; and cable companies and Internet service providers. The commission is empowered to grant, revoke, renew, and modify broadcasting licenses. It superintended the relations between AT&T and its successor phone companies and later promoted competition between long-distance phone companies. In the 1990s the FCC was involved in battles over the regulation of both pricing and content in the cable television industry. With the rapid development of telecommunications technologies, particularly mobile communications systems, and the blurring of distinctions between cable television and local and long-distance telephone companies, the job of the FCC continues to become more complex.

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