HOME > NEWSROOM > WASHINGTON NEXT WEEK ARCHIVE > September 16, 2011

 

 

 
NRB’s Mission: Relevant to Past and Present
By Frank Wright, Ph.D., President & CEO
September 16, 2
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Yesterday I had the privilege of opening a historic press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. I use the word “historic” because NRB was unveiling the first report of the John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech. In so doing, we presented an original idea that is supported by extensive research, in order to shine light on a topic that may impact every person of faith in the world in the years to come.

Simply put, the John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech catalogs viewpoint censorship on new media platforms – censorious practices and policies by Apple’s iTunes App Store, Facebook, MySpace and Google, along with Internet service providers (ISPs) AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. While I will leave a detailed analysis of this report and its conclusions for a later date, it’s important to address one question today: Why does this matter to NRB? Why has our General Counsel’s office evaluated the operational policies, and resultant practices, of new media platforms? The answer goes to the heart of NRB’s mission, which is to advance biblical truth, to promote media excellence, and to defend free speech. We are committed to representing Christian communicators wherever threats to religious free speech emerge.

In our view, new media platforms may be the next battleground, and the battle has already come to the door of Evangelicals. That isn’t shocking, because 67 years ago NRB was founded in the fires of adversity when government regulations (combined with policy decisions by major networks) made it virtually impossible for Evangelical ministers to buy radio airtime. Realizing that the Gospel would be absent from the airwaves – and understanding the influence that the burgeoning television industry would have in the future – a small group of courageous and innovative leaders formed and incorporated the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) in 1944.

Today, as in the 1940’s, we face the same challenge in the United States, simply re-packaged in modern parlance as religious censorship by new media platforms is quietly, but firmly, taking hold. As Americans we have First Amendment guarantees of free speech, a free press, and free religious speech and expression, so it behooves us to ensure that the rules of the road ahead are written in such a way that freedom can flourish in our nation.

That, in turn, will impact the millions of individuals worldwide who use radio, television, and the Internet to listen to the broadcasts, live web streaming, and podcasts of NRB member organizations. Realize that if Christian content and worldview programming are successfully censored by new media platforms here in the United States, then the Good News of the Gospel will become one more casualty of institutionalized religious discrimination here and worldwide.

NRB looks forward to innovations of the future. We want to offer positive, non-burdensome solutions to the weighty questions raised by the John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech. In so doing, our association will be a beacon of hope as our members continue to champion the cause of Christ in a technological environment of free religious speech.

The President's Column was prepared with the valuable research and writing assistance of Laurel A. MacLeod.
 
For other articles by Dr. Wright click here and here.
 
 
Washington Whispers
Spectrum License Fees Proposed by White House
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Last Thursday, President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress about the state of the American economy and promised that he would be sending legislation to Capitol Hill that would create more American jobs. Cognizant of the ongoing effort to reduce the nation’s deficit, he also declared, “everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.” Unfortunately, the President’s plan would authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to have broadcasters pick up a sizeable portion of the tab.

When the White House submitted the text of President Obama’s American Jobs Act this week, it included authority for the FCC to auction broadcast television spectrum to make way for more wireless capacity, similar to other efforts by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) earlier this year. This was not a surprise. However, the President’s proposal would also create a new section in federal communications law authorizing spectrum license user fees. While leaving details to the FCC’s discretion, the White House bill calls on that agency to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year by levying fees on new, renewal, and modification spectrum licenses or construction permits. There is an exemption in this fees section for broadcast television and public safety services, but presumably other spectrum holders, including non-public safety radio, could be subject to this new fee. In its legislative analysis, the White House stated, “It is expected that fees would encourage efficient allocation and use of the radio spectrum, as the opportunity cost of spectrum resources would be reflected to commercial license holders that did not receive authorizations through competitive bidding.”

The Obama Administration’s American Jobs Act has not yet been introduced in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, but it is facing resistance on numerous points not only from many Republicans, but also notably from several Democrats. NRB will be closely following this latest proposal to tax America’s spectrum, particularly since any new fees would undoubtedly add strain to the budgets of many religious broadcasters. 

[“Address by the President to a Joint Session of Congress,” September 8, 2011, whitehouse.gov; Keith Perine, “Obama Administration Making Another Attempt at Creating Spectrum License Fees,” CQ Today, September 12, 2011; Jennifer Steinhauer, “Some Democrats Are Balking at Obama’s Jobs Bill,” nytimes.com, September 14, 2011.]

 

 
 
 
 
The Inside Story: Key Government Issues for Christian Communicators
 
Washington Whispers
 
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