Written by W. Evan Golder
On Feb. 15, the UCC's Office of Communication, Inc.—a communication advocacy vehicle of the denomination—asked the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider a case in which Enron, the bankrupt gas and oil company, neglected to get licenses for operating FCC-regulated facilities.
According to the "Request for Stay," the FCC's Enforcement Bureau "allowed America's most corrupt company" to pay the U.S. Treasury a "voluntary payment" of $7,500 in return for the FCC dropping its investigation of why Enron violated FCC licensing requirements in 149 instances.
On three different occasions, in 1997, 2000 and 2001, Enron "discovered" these violations, then later told the FCC that it had corrected them. But it had not.
Yet Enron was not fined and for its voluntary payment of $7,500 - $50.33 per violation—a deal apparently was struck: Enron promised not to commit any more violations and the FCC promised to stop its investigation.
The case involves Enron's apparent illegal use of microwave, private land mobile, ship-to-shore and aircraft facilities to monitor conditions along remote pipelines. The UCC became involved "to protect the FCC's ability to know with confidence who controls the companies it regulates," according to the legal brief.
"Ever since the early '60s, O.C., Inc. has been aggressively pursuing the public interest in broadcasting and communications," says the Rev. Robert Chase, O.C., Inc's executive director. "If the FCC doesn't even know or care who is using the public airwaves, then the ability of the public to use them is curtailed."
In a separate petition, O.C., Inc. asked the FCC commissioners to overturn the Enron settlement and resume the Enron investigation.
Included in the petition is a declaration from the Rev. Patricia Ross, pastor of First Congregational UCC in Portland, Ore.
"Like most UCC members, I listen to radio, television and cable broadcasts," she says. "If I hope to be able to hear a diversity of viewpoints, I have to depend on the FCC to regulate these media."
"If the FCC doesn't do its job," Ross adds, "then UCC members, including myself, will enjoy less diversity of viewpoints, higher prices and fewer choices from our cable and wireless providers."