FCC’s Media Relations Budget – Why the Nearly 3-fold Increase in “Other Contractual Services” & What Are Said Services Anyway?

by Mike Wendy on March 29, 2011

Does the FCC use outside public relations, social media, web search optimization, and / or other web-related services / experts to help disseminate its message to the masses? It’s hard to tell from the FCC’s proposed budget.

Why the concern here?

Well, with the rise of the easy to manipulate web, and blogs, and anonymous comment sections, and DoD RFPs to guide “persona management,” and the Administration’s Cass Sunstein with his “Cognitive Infiltration” theory, and Uncle Sam’s GM takeover, and JournoList, and the GSA’s use of outside PR firms to “engineer” consent on messy projects, I think we should have a better handle on the tools goverment uses to tell us “stuff.”  Stated more plainly, we should know that we’re getting real information instead of propaganda, the latter being generally forbidden by Congress.

The tools the FCC uses reveal a lot about which is being disseminated.  The more “covert” the tool (i.e., anonymous comments posted to look like real Americans said them), the more likely we’re being tooled with propaganda.

That’s why I have a question about the FCC’s recent budget proposal for media relations, and its unexplained, almost 3-fold jump in “Other Contractural Services” (compare the 2011 unpassed budget, with the present 2012 budget proposal, at lines 25 of each pictured below).

2011 Budget

2012 Budget

In the 2011 budget, it shows $111,075 for “2010 Enacted,” and $113,408 for “2011 Request” funds for “Other Contractual Services.”  Compare this to the 2012 proposed budget (which is now being negotiated in Congress), and it shows $294,590 for “2010 Actual,” and $283, 065 for “2011 Estimated” outlays for the services.

What would account for such a disparity from the proposed budget of 2011 to 2012; from the enacted / actual, and requested / estimated outlays?

We can’t really tell.

Of course, aside from the budget changes, perhaps the bigger question here is –  what exactly are “Other Contractual Services”?  Hasn’t the FCC hired the right people to, er,  relate to the media?  If so, why the close to 300-large for these…well, whatever-they-are services?

You may know that the FCC has been in a bruising battle, trying to convince the American public, the media, Congress and the marketplace that its new Net Neutrality regulations – which were passed in the dark of the night last December – are both legal and good for this country.

While $300 thousand doesn’t seem like a lot of money, on the viral web, it goes a long way.  Are the “Other Contractual Services” part of the FCC’s efforts to sway us virally?

Who knows?  But we should.

(Maybe the FCC can explain – I have a call into the agency’s Media Relations office, and if / when they get back to me, I’ll update this site accordingly.)

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