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The Government, in the Sunshine Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552b(b), requires that 'meetings' of a federal agency be open to the public. Section 552b(a)(2) defines a 'meeting' as 'the deliberations of at least the number of individual agency members required to take action on behalf of the agency where such deliberations determine or result in the joint conduct or disposition of official agency business.'

Under these provisions, the Sunshine Act does not require that Consultative Process sessions be held in public, as the participation by FCC members in these sessions constitutes neither a 'meeting' as defined by § 552b(a)(2) nor a meeting 'of the agency' as provided by § 552b(b). 

Congress, in drafting the Act's definition of 'meeting,' recognized that the administrative process cannot be conducted entirely in the public eye. '[I]nformal background discussions [that] clarify issues and expose varying views' are a necessary part of an agency's work. See S.Rep. No. 94-354, 354, p.19 (1975). The Act's procedural requirements effectively would prevent such discussions, and thereby impair normal agency operations without achieving significant public benefit. Meetings within the scope of the Act must be held in public unless one of the Act's exemptions is applicable. ...

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