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Bernanke to hold Fed’s first regular news conferences

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Ben S. Bernanke is planning to meet the press.

The Federal Reserve chairman will begin holding quarterly news conferences, marking the end of an era in which leaders of the central bank avoided any regular, on-the-record contact with the fourth estate.

The Fed announced Thursday that Bernanke will hold a news briefing in the afternoon after each two-day meeting of the Fed’s monetary policy committee. Those meetings, held four times a year, focus on the Fed’s economic projections for the coming years. Traditionally, Bernanke announces the projections when the committee’s minutes are released three weeks later. Now the economic projections will be made public in advance of the minutes.

The first news conference is scheduled for April 27.

The move is one in a series of efforts by the central bank to make itself appear more accessible and less secretive. Most of Bernanke’s counterparts in other countries, including the heads of the Bank of England and European Central Bank, routinely hold news conferences.

As recently as the 1990s, the Fed did not make any announcement when it changed policy. Now, it both announces policy changes and releases a statement explaining Fed leaders’ assessment of the economy and rationale for any changes. The addition of news briefings will give Bernanke more opportunity to explain the Fed’s actions.

Bernanke was interviewed twice in recent years by the television show “60 Minutes” and took questions from journalists in two appearances at the National Press Club. But he has not submitted to on-the-record questioning by the financial media.

And his predecessors rarely took on-the-record questions from the media. Paul A. Volcker conducted a news conference to announce the Fed was tightening monetary policy in 1979, and Alan Greenspan held an impromptu news conference in 1992.

The Fed has discussed opening the door to the media off and on through the years, and this plan grew out of a committee led by Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to reconsider the central bank’s approach to public communication.

“The introduction of regular press briefings is intended to further enhance the clarity and timeliness of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy communication,” the announcement said.

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