FCC Responds to Committee Questions on Fairness Doctrine; Upton, Walden Push for More First Amendment Protection

February 20, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today commented on the FCC’s response to the committee’s December 10, 2013, letter regarding the commission’s Critical Information Needs (CIN) study. In December, committee leaders, along with every Republican member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urging him to suspend the CIN study which included provisions for FCC funded agents to question the editorial decisions of journalists, producers, and other news professionals.

“We are pleased to see Chairman Wheeler recognizes the gravity of our concerns and has accordingly made progress toward ensuring that First Amendment protections remain in place for journalists,” said Upton and Walden. “Before moving forward, however, it is imperative that the FCC ensure that any study, with any agents acting on its behalf, stays out of newsrooms. The courts have rightfully struck down the Fairness Doctrine, and any attempt to revive it, through study or any other means, should not be attempted by the FCC or any other government agency.”

Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell similarly expressed concern that the CIN study raises questions about government interference in the newsroom. On Fox News yesterday, he asked, “How much government coercion might there be with all of this? Is the government trying to ultimately dictate speech and dictate how journalists are supposed to do their jobs? And it doesn’t matter what your political stripe might be, that’s just not a good idea, especially when you have such a competitive communications landscape.” Watch the full interview here.

Upton and Walden cited similar free speech concerns with respect to the original Fairness Doctrine in urging then FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to remove the statute from the Code of Federal Regulations in 2011. The doctrine was in August 2011.

To read the FCC’s response, click here.

To read the committee’s December 10, 2013 letter click here.

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