Fed chief says he will take press questions each quarter

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Fed chief Ben Bernanke last month publicly faced one of his fiercest critics, Republican Rep. Ron Paul, who accused the central bank of a variety of misdeeds -- including some linked to Saddam Hussein’s purchase of weapons and the Watergate break-in.

His next test? Quarterly press conferences with reporters, some of whom may not know the difference between the CPI and the PPI when it comes to economic indicators.

The Fed announced today that Bernanke will hold news conferences immediately after the Fed’s Open Market Committee meets to consider economic conditions and set interest rates on April 27, June 22, and Nov. 2. Each press conference will be webcast.

“The introduction of regular press briefings is intended to further enhance the clarity and timeliness of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy communication. The Federal Reserve will continue to review its communications practices in the interest of ensuring accountability and increasing public understanding,” the central bank said in a statement.

For Fed-watchers, the secretive central bank’s plan for quarterly news briefings is a step toward greater transparency.

Last December, the Fed had its first-ever webcast board meeting , giving the public a glimpse of how board governors discuss issues such as its controversial proposal to cut banks’ debit transaction fees, as required by the Dodd-Frank reform law. And in 2009, Bernanke gave a televised interview to 60 Minutes, in which he sought to explain some of the Fed’s decisions during the financial crisis.

In the early 1990s, the Fed inched toward more transparency when it began announcing the outcome of its FOMC meetings in formal statements, which are closely dissected by Wall Street traders for clues to what the central bank might do next in the financial markets.

Last month, Bernanke testified for the first time before a House Financial Services subcommittee that is now headed by Paul, a Texas Republican and the Fed’s most outspoken opponent in Congress. Paul, who wrote the book, End the Fed, wants to reintroduce the gold standard and has introduced legislation that would require a full and complete audit of the Fed by the Government Accountability Office.

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