Wednesday, December 11, 2013

GOP Reps. Fear FCC Study Effort to Reintroduce Fairness Doctrine

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The Federal Communications Commission's $900,000 study, "Multi-Market Study of Critical Needs," is drawing fire from Republican legislators who are concerned that the agency is laying the groundwork for reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine, Ad Week reported today.

The Fairness Doctrine, which was implemented by the FCC in 1949, was derided by the agency in 1987 as an unconstitutional infringement on the free press and expunged from the books two years ago (see "TUOL" post 8/24/11). The doctrine was aimed at airing conflicting views about controversial issues and required broadcasters to provide time for a response to personal attacks levied by the broadcasters.

The FCC study that has solons on edge intends to examine how tv stations choose news stories and how the news is produced and prioritized, according to the Ad Week article. Acquiring that data for analytic purposes would involve interviewing journalists about factors that affect their story selection and delving into their news philosophy.

Critics of the study view this as a blatant attempt to influence journalists' political speech. Newly appointed FCC chair Tom Wheeler has until January 10, 2014, to respond to questions posed by the GOP lawmakers, Ad Week reported, including why the study is confined only to the Columbia, South Carolina, market rather than tv markets of varying sizes and geographic locations.
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