Committee Working on Bill to Protect the First Amendment, Eradicate Chilling FCC Study

February 25, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today announced that the Energy and Commerce Committee will pursue legislative solutions to take the Federal Communications Commission’s Critical Information Needs (CIN) study off the books. The study, which was first announced last summer, originally included the questioning of journalists and other news professionals regarding their decision-making processes and news philosophy. While Chairman Wheeler has indicated that the study will be changed, he has yet to adequately answer the questions contained in the committee’s December 10, 2013 letter. The Communications and Technology Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing and introduce legislation to stop the study.

“The very existence of this CIN study is an affront to the First Amendment and should have never been proposed in the first place. As someone with a journalism degree, I was alarmed from the moment I saw it, which is why we wrote to Chairman Wheeler in December to urge him to stop the study. To date, Chairman Wheeler has insisted upon only making small tweaks, and what he has proposed to do isn’t enough. The study should be eradicated completely,” said Walden. “The potential for violation of the First Amendment is exceptionally egregious, but it is also concerning that the commission believes it can prescribe what ‘critical information needs’ are in communities across the country.”

Walden continued, “It took nearly 25 years to get the Fairness Doctrine off the books once it had been 'eliminated' in 1987, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure this study or any other effort by the government to control the output of America’s newsrooms never sees the light of day.”

In December, full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and every Republican member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee wrote to Chairman Wheeler urging him to suspend the study. Upon the FCC’s response to the December letter, Upton and Walden expressed concern that the study still left room for First Amendment violations. Members cited similar concerns with respect to the original Fairness Doctrine and committee leaders urged then FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to remove the statute from the Code of Federal Regulations in 2011. The doctrine was eliminated in August 2011.

Additional information about the upcoming hearing will be posted here as it is available.

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