Washington, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) delivers the following opening remarks at a Communications and Technology Subcommittee markup titled, “Markup of Media Diversity and Public Safety Bills.”
As Prepared For Delivery
Good morning and welcome to today’s markup of nearly a dozen pieces of legislation seeking to promote Media Diversity and enhance public safety communications.
While I intend to support a number of these measures today, I would like to begin with the ones I cannot support: starting with H.R. 5926, the RESILIENT Networks Act.
And Mr. Chairman, it is unfortunate because I believe, with the right approach and more time, we can find a bipartisan consensus on how to address these challenges facing our country. But before we can support such important legislation, members and the public need to fully understand the approach taken under this legislation to restore communications networks during emergencies, the scope of what it entails, and the impact it could have on the public. And, as a matter of fact, we have not been able to get at these answers in the short period of time since this bill was introduced less than a month ago.
Now we can sit up here and bicker about process, or we can simply work together to do this right. This is not a stalling tactic – it is a sincere commitment, as it has been from the start. We should hear from the agencies before placing new burdens on them and expanding jurisdiction. We should have a hearing with a full complement of witnesses who can share more than a partial picture of the facts on the ground. We should take stock of the Commission’s ongoing efforts that were just adopted less than a month ago. These are commonsense steps that you held us to when we were in the Majority, and we are simply trying to hold you to the same standard – especially on such an important topic.
But on a brighter note, there is legislation on today’s markup that we are prepared to support with some bipartisan amendments to improve the underlaying legislation. We are hopeful to support H.R. 3957, Mr. Butterfield’s Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act, which would reinstate the tax certificate program that benefits both established broadcasters and minorities seeking to enter the broadcast ownership business.
Unlike the RESILIENT Networks Act, we know precisely what challenges we face in the broadcast industry to promoting diversity in ownership: the lack of access to capital, and a strong foundation of operations and management experience. While the tax certificate has proven successful in the past, we must also ensure that new owners have a strong foundation to manage the complexities of owning a broadcast station. H.R. 3957, as introduced, would have established a program to create an incentive for radio and television stations to mentor new entrants in the field, and I look forward to speaking more on that in a bit. Unfortunately, the manager’s amendment will strike this important provision. I have an amendment that would not only place the mentorship program back into H.R. 3957, but provides guidelines for the FCC as to how the program should be structured.
I am glad that we are moving forward swiftly and considering H.R. 4194, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which designates 9-8-8 as the universal mental health crisis hotline. Having an easy to remember number during a time of crisis is crucial so Americans can get help when they need it most. This is such an important issue that must be done right, and I look forward to working with all parties involved to make that happen.
We have many other important bills on today’s markup, and I look forward to discussing those as we call them up. Thank you, and I yield back.