Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure a drone restriction over a Texas bridge does not prevent media outlets from reporting fully on the migrant situation there.
That is according to a letter from the senator to FAA administrator Steve Dickson, a copy of which was supplied to Multichannel News by the senator.
The two-week temporary restriction on drone flights over the international bridge into Del Rio, Texas, stil allows flights, but under a waiver process.
Wicker wants the FAA to explain just why it instituted the tighter drone access policy in the first place and give its assurance that will not impede media coverage of the border issue.
"To ensure that the First Amendment is protected, I expect that the FAA will promptly process any waiver sought by the media, which I understand is standard practice," said Wicker.
He said he wanted more than a reply to his letter. "Given the concerns raised by this matter, I request a briefing with an explanation for implementing this aviation restriction at the Mexican border."
Conservative media have been positing a nefarious motive for the restriction, linking it to viral footage of the migrants that got airplay on Fox News, with reporter Bill Melugin saying that the border patrol had been overwhelmed by more than 8,000 migrants.
The FAA tweeted Friday:
Public safety entities and media who need to fly a drone in a Temporary Flight Restriction may submit an emergency operation request with their existing Remote Pilot Certificate or Certificate of Authorization through the FAA's special waiver process at https://t.co/jIPmRtMNmR.September 17, 2021
The agency made clear that "Media Coverage Providing Crucial Information to the Public" is one of the cases for expedited approval of such waiver requests.
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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.