BUSINESS

Federal Reserve Announces Plans To Hold Regular Media Briefings

03/24/2011 04:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will start holding regular media briefings on monetary policy next month, a historic shift to greater openness at the traditionally secretive U.S. central bank.

Bernanke will kick off a program of four-times-a-year news conferences on April 27 following a regularly scheduled two-day Fed meeting on monetary policy, the central bank said on Thursday. It will be the first regularly scheduled briefing by a Fed chairman in the history of the nearly 98-year-old central bank.

Future briefings will coincide with Fed meetings at which officials provide their quarterly economic forecasts, which fall in June and November this year.

"The introduction of regular press briefings is intended to further enhance the clarity and timeliness of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy communication," the central bank said.

Bernanke has taken a number of steps to boost transparency at the Fed during his tenure as chairman, and the latest announcement brings it into line with some other central banks. The head of the European Central Bank holds a news conference after each ECB policy meeting, while the governor of the Bank of England briefs media quarterly.

Congressional and public outcry for greater Fed disclosure grew louder in the wake of the recent financial crisis, during which the Fed undertook extensive unorthodox emergency measures.

The Fed has a reputation for conducting its operations behind closed doors and shielding details of its decision-making from view.

Despite a gradual shift to greater openness in recent years, the Fed has fought to keep some of the details of its operations secret. This week, it lost a court battle to withhold the names of banks that had taken emergency loans from its last-resort lending facility during the financial crisis.

To make its operations more open, the central bank has in recent years begun issuing its forecasts quarterly, rather than twice a year, and moved up the publication of minutes of policy meetings to three weeks from about six weeks.

It did not begin announcing its interest rate moves until 1994.

Since the financial crisis, Bernanke has stepped up efforts to explain the central bank's actions to the public, giving two extensive television interviews and delivering speeches at which reporters have been able to ask questions.

Janet Yellen, the Fed's vice chairman, has led a subcommittee since November to examine the central bank's communications practices. The Fed said on Thursday it would continue to review its policies "in the interest of ensuring accountability and increasing public understanding."

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Neil Stempleman and Dan Grebler)

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