Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and other members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday, urging him to suspend efforts to conduct a field study that could lead to a revival of the “Fairness Doctrine,” an intrusion by the FCC into the freedoms of speech and the press.
To read the letter, please click here.
“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," they wrote.
"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 Walden and the other members.
The FCC is conducting a field study of “critical information needs” in local media markets, and will seek information on how local news media outlets “select and prioritize news coverage.”
“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,’ the lawmakers' letter said.
"These goals are plainly inappropriate and are at bottom an incursion by the government into the constitutionally protected operations of the professional news media,” they added.
“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 concludes.
Walden wrote the letter in his capacity as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. He was joined by 15 other members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).
In 2011, Walden and Upton urged then FCC-Chairman Julius Genachowski to remove the statute from the Code of Federal Regulations in 2011. The doctrine was eliminated in August 2011.