A contested hearing involves a factual investigation (the discovery process), summary decision and/or trial briefs, and a trial with live testimony and the presentation of evidence before an administrative law judge (ALJ). In most FCC hearings, the ALJ is ordered to resolve the factual matters at issue as well as initially determine how, in light of those issues, the FCC should resolve the matter. The ALJ’s initial decision is sent to the full Commission as a recommendation, which the FCC may accept or reject as a final decision.

Depending on the type of matter being presented, the document used to initiate a hearing can be titled “Hearing Designation Order,” “Order to Show Cause,” “Notice of Opportunity for Hearing,” or a combination thereof. Generally, such documents are collectively referred to as HDOs. After the HDO is released, parties must file a notice of appearance confirming that they are prepared to appear at the hearing and present evidence. The ALJ will set a scheduling conference, and the parties will begin the process of developing an evidentiary record on the matters set forth in the HDO. The parties and the ALJ also will set a date for an evidentiary hearing, at which time witnesses will testify and evidence will be presented to the ALJ.

A hearing is a public proceeding. All documents related to a hearing proceeding are filed in a public docket. All oral testimony is public. The ALJ will consider the complete record and issue an “Initial Decision,” but that determination is not final. Instead, it is sent as a recommendation to the full Commission, which makes the ultimate judgment for the agency. Parties have an opportunity to “appeal” the ALJ’s initial decision by filing “exceptions” to the Commission.

There a four general types of hearings conducted at the FCC: License Applications and/or Renewals; Revocation Proceedings; Cable Carriage Disputes; and 800 MHz Rebanding Disputes.


Tuesday, December 20, 2022