HOME > NEWSROOM > ARTICLES > Commissioner Wary of 'First Step' Toward New Fairness Doctrine

Commissioner Wary of 'First Step' Toward New Fairness Doctrine

Calling it a “first step down the same dangerous path” of the infamous Fairness Doctrine, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai this week blasted a study being readied by the agency ostensibly to boost diversity in media. In a Wall Street Journal editorial, Commissioner Pai stated, “With its ‘Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,’ or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, SC, is scheduled to begin this spring.”

Commissioner Pai’s warnings build on the alarms raised by legislators in recent months. Notably, key Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in which they referred to the CIN study as a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.” They wrote, “Given the widespread calls for the commission to respect the First Amendment and stay out of the editorial decisions of reporters and broadcasters, we were shocked to see that the FCC is putting itself back in the business of attempting to control the political speech of journalists.”

While his agency asserts the study is part of its research for lowering barriers to entry in media, Commissioner Pai dismissed this idea. He stated, “This claim is peculiar. How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry? And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?”  Commissioner Pai noted that the advocates of Fairness Doctrine-like “newsroom policing” are not deterred from continuing to press their agenda. However, he firmly stated, “The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.”

The Fairness Doctrine, first introduced in 1949, enabled the FCC to compel broadcasters to air opposing viewpoints on controversial issues deemed to be of public importance. The Fairness Doctrine, while not enforced since 1987, was finally eliminated from the Code of Federal Regulations in August 2011. NRB will remain vigilant against a resurgence of such a policy.

  • Find FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s Wall Street Journal article.
  • Learn more from the House Energy and Commerce Committee on this subject here.     

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: February 14, 2014

Latest News

NRB Lauds Stand for Religious Freedom in Louisiana

Legislation intended to be a preventative shield for religious freedom in advance of the coming Supreme Court decision on marriage was shelved by a committee in the Louisiana legislature this week.

Commissioner Highlights Uncertainty on Collection of Fines

While the $1 million fine given to iHeartMedia for misusing Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones was the big news out of the FCC Enforcement Bureau this week, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had another interesting point to make about the agency’s penalties generally.

Senate Adopts Religious Freedom Measure in Trade Bill

The U.S. Senate this week adopted an amendment by U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) that would require the Executive Branch to take religious freedom into consideration when negotiating trade agreements.

House Democrats Push for More On-Air Disclosure

A number of House Democrats have co-sponsored legislation that would require the FCC to increase the amount of information revealed on-air for political ads.

InterVarsity President Alec Hill to Step Down Following Cancer Diagnosis

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship President Alec Hill has been diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a cancer of the bone marrow, and will start treatment on June 10, according to an announcement last Friday.

NRB Milestone Award Honors 50+ Years of Christian Broadcasting: Is Your Organization Eligible?

NRB members who have achieved 50 years or more of continuous broadcast ministry are eligible to be considered for the NRB Milestone Award.

NRB Members: Do You Want to Be Highlighted in NRB Today?

Luis Palau Presents Good News Message to 30+ UN Ambassadors at United Nations HQ

International evangelist Luis Palau recently presented the “good news in the city” message to more than 30 ambassadors at the United Nations during the Ambassadors’ Spring Luncheon Forum. The gathering also included several members from the UN Security Council.

Hearings Highlight Internet Governance Concerns

This week two hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives focused on the future operation and governance of the Internet.

Senate Calls for Release of American Citizens in Iran

This week the U.S. Senate approved a resolution calling for the release of several Americans being held in Iran, among them Pastor Saeed Abedini, a resident of Idaho.

More News