Republicans in the House Energy and Commerce Committee are concerned that the FCC is drifting toward a Fairness Doctrine mentality given questions it is asking of media outlets in an ongoing study. Key GOP leaders of the committee, as well as each Republican member of that panel’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee, signed a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stating, “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.”
Of concern is an FCC study announced in November of a “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs.” The Congressmen, referring to the study as a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0,” were specifically concerned with questions this study planned to ask journalists and other media professionals about their editorial beliefs and practices. They concluded, “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the beacon of freedom that makes the United States unique among the world’s nations. We urge you to take immediate steps to suspend this effort and find ways that are consistent with the Communications Act and the Constitution to serve the commission’s statutory responsibilities.”
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 and completely eliminated from the Code of Federal Regulations in August 2011. NRB will remain vigilant against a resurgence of such a policy.
• Learn more from the House Energy and Commerce Committee on this subject here.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: December 13, 2013