House Republicans to FCC: Stay out of news content


U.S. Congress

On 12/10, numerous Republican leaders in Fred Upton’s Commerce Committee and all Republican members of Greg Walden’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee sent a letter to FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, asking why the Commission is spending $900K on an analysis of news providers. They also issued a call to stop “this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the news police.”

Could this be a precursor to a new Fairness Doctrine?: An 11/1 Public Notice detailed an FCC project, the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs. (CIN)” In that is a  provision to seek (as analyzed by website The Daily Beast) “a remarkably wide range of information on demographics, point of view, news topic selection, management style and other factors in news organizations both in and out of the FCC’s traditional purview.”

Said the letter to Wheeler: “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. 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,’” wrote the members. “The commission has no business probing the news media’s editorial judgment and expertise, nor does it have any business in prescribing a set diet of ‘critical information.’ These goals are plainly inappropriate and are at bottom an incursion by the government into the constitutionally protected operations of the professional news media.”

The members 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 letter was signed by the following members:
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI)
Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX)
Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR)
Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH)
Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL)
Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)

The letter asks Wheeler to answer specific questions about how the CIN study would benefit the taxpayers by 1/10.

See the letter to Wheeler here.