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FCC proposal

Posted: February 14, 2014 8:51 a.m.
Updated: February 15, 2014 5:00 a.m.

 

As a news organization, we at the Chronicle-Independent tend to pay more attention to First Amendment issues than most people, and a new proposal by the Federal Communications Commission threatens to let the government decide what news stories television stations can broadcast. We realize, of course, that many cable stations today lean one way or the other; you need look no further than the two most commonly cited ones, FOX News and MSNBC, both of which might purport to deliver straight-up news but seldom do. But the great thing is that people can tune in to whatever news outlet they wish.

But under an FCC proposal, government representatives would go into TV stations to determine which kinds of stories are being run and whether they are suitable. The FCC condones this with a lot of gobbledygook language, but it’s not difficult to see that lurking in the background is the specter of Uncle Sam telling reporters and editors what they should be airing. That’s a travesty. It reeks of the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, which for years required stations to give equal time to opposing viewpoints, even with editorial opinion pieces. In theory, the Fairness Doctrine sounded fine; in reality, it was a nightmare and was finally, thank goodness, abolished.

The FCC says its proposed “critical information needs” studies would merely be objective fact-finding missions. But it’s a slippery slope from that point forward, and it’s easy to envision elected officials and their minions stepping in to offer their “suggestions” on what should be covered. This entire proposal is unwise, unsound, and worthy only of the trash can.

 

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