Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel made it clear to Republican lawmakers before her successful confirmation vote (68 to 31) earlier this month to a new, five-year term that she did not support efforts by “some liberal organizations” to remove conservative cable channels from their lineups or for the agency to use its license revocation power on broadcasters.
That assertion came in written answers to questions submitted after her confirmation hearing last month.
Rosenworcel was asked by at least three different Republicans about the issue of viewpoint diversity and alleged censorship of cable and broadcast.
This was how the question was posted by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.): “There have been efforts by some of our colleagues in the House of Representatives to pressure MVPDs into removing Fox News, Newsmax and other conservative channels from their lineups. There have also been calls by some liberal organizations to have the FCC revoke the licenses of broadcasters like Sinclair. Are you in favor of these calls to use the FCC to remove certain viewpoints from the airwaves?”
In an answer that would have made the late Rep. John Dingell proud, her answer was a succinct: "No."
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asked the question this way: “Will you commit to ensuring the FCC does not factor political content or viewpoints when issuing licenses, making regulatory decisions, or approving mergers and acquisitions?”
This time, the answer was a simple “yes.”
Sen Rick Scott (R-Fla.) got right to the “C” word (censorship): “The FCC has authority over broadcast licenses. As a nominee for this bipartisan commission, do you believe the government has the authority to censor opinions?”
“No,” said Rosenworcel, adding: “FCC authority is limited by the First Amendment and Section 326 of the Communications Act.” That section says the FCC has no authority to censor speech. ■
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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