FCC news study smacks of intimidation
Law requires the Federal Communications Commission to conduct research studies. The most recent study was going to look at what barriers are keeping small business out of the news business.
Alas, the study asked questions such as What’s the news philosophy of the station? and Who decides which stories are covered?
Remember, this is the FCC. It licenses broadcasters. No print product – like, say, newspapers – would have been directly affected. Even so, Republicans in Congress got upset, saying the FCC’s effort sounded too much like intimidation because of its power over broadcasters. Theirs is not an unreasonable concern.
The FCC is walking back its study. The agency has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters, the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, said in a letter to senior House Republicans. He insisted that his commission was revising the study to address GOP concerns. And then last week he canceled the study entirely.
Republicans were also worried that the FCC is trying in a backhand way to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, an odious requirement that broadcasters present opposing views of news stories and commentaries they air. Ronald Reagan ended the doctrine in 1987.
Liberals tended to like the doctrine. Many station owners are conservative, and the most successful shows since the end of the Fairness Doctrine have been right-wing gab fests. Needless to say, conservatives hate the doctrine and are one the lookout for any attempt at reinstating it.
In any event, they were right to raise concerns about the FCC. If the FCC is really concerned about getting small businesses into broadcasting, there are other ways.