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FCC chairman says agency not interested in restricting speech freedoms

Feb. 20, 2014 at 4:19 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission told the Republican leader of a House committee his agency has "no intention" of regulating freedoms of speech or press.

In a letter released Thursday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., his commission "has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters."

Republicans had expressed concern the study was an attempt restrict political speech of journalists by reviving the Fairness Doctrine, the one-time set of rules that required broadcasters to air opposing viewpoints on major issues that was formally eliminated in 2011, the Hill reported.

Ajit Pai, a Republican FCC member, raised alarms about the study in a commentary last week in the Wall Street Journal, saying the effort would "thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country."

Wheeler said the study was meant to help the FCC meet its obligations under a section of the Communications Act that directs agency to identify and eliminate "market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the provision and ownership of telecommunications services and information services."

"The statutory provision expressly links our obligation to identify market barriers with the responsibility to 'promote the policies and purposes of this chapter favoring diversity of media voices,'" Wheeler said in his letter.

In a statement, Upton and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Communications and Technology subcommittee, said "it is imperative that the FCC ensure that any study, with any agents acting on its behalf, stays out of newsrooms."

"The courts have rightfully struck down the Fairness Doctrine, and any attempt to revive it, through study or any other means, should not be attempted by the FCC or any other government agency."

Topics: Greg Walden
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