GOP Lawmakers Call FCC Study Attempt to Make FCC ‘News Police’

By Kevin Eck Comment

FCC_304An FCC study looking into how news stories are chosen and reported has caught the eye of  Republican members of the Commerce Committee who fear it may be an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine.

The 16 lawmakers told the commission in a letter that by looking into how how editorial decisions are made by local news outlets, the FCC is threatening the First Amendment.

In the letter, Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and 15 other lawmakers asked the FCC to stop the study saying, “It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.”

The study, called the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Needs” plans to look at how broadcast, print, radio and internet news stories are selected, prioritized and produced. On its website, the FCC said the study looks at the information needs of the American public, with “special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations.”

The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee along with every Republican member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee also wrote, “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, which required broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of  present controversial issues of public importance in an honest, equitable and balanced way, exposing viewers to a diversity of viewpoints, was officially taken off the books in 2011.