Clearly the second fiddle on the day’s agenda, Commissioner Robert McDowell encountered no grilling from either side of the aisle as Senators congratulated him for his three years on the FCC and indicated no opposition to keeping him there. Under questioning from fellow Republicans, McDowell said he had no concerns that anyone at the FCC was working to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.
“If I am confirmed, you have my commitment to support policies that will promote and not stifle freedom, competition, innovation and more choices. If we adopt such policies, it will create boundless opportunities for American consumers and entrepreneurs alike. Additionally, if confirmed I will commit myself to continuing to conduct the affairs of my office in a bi-partisan and ethical manner, and I will continue to make decisions as an independent commissioner at an independent administrative agency,” McDowell said in his opening statement to the Senate Commerce Committee.
Noting that he, Acting Chairman Michael Copps and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein had been referred to as the “Three Amigos” working on the DTV transition, McDowell said the Commission would stay focused on getting consumers into the digital era as the number one priority.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) brought up the Fairness Doctrine and asked if McDowell had seen any evidence of efforts at the FCC to bring it back, perhaps through pending localism proceedings.
McDowell noted that he had spoken out against any re-imposition of the Doctrine and said it would probably be unconstitutional. “I don’t have any concerns at the moment that the Commission will pursue it,” the Commissioner said. “There are some other concerns that I have regarding heaping more obligations on broadcasters, especially at this time,” McDowell said, noting the impact of the advertising recession on stations.