Both nominees for the Federal Communications Commission oppose bringing back the Fairness Doctrine — in any form.
That’s what Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, and Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican, told members of the Senate Commerce Committee during their nomination hearing this week. Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas asked both FCC nominees about the issue.
Clyburn, a South Carolina utility commissioner and former newspaper publisher, said, “The FCC is not in the content business.” Baker, who until January led NTIA’s DTV converter-box coupon program, agreed, saying the commission should not be involved in censorship in any form.
Republican John Ensign of Nevada asked whether media ownership rules should be changed given the multitude of news sources that exist compared to when the rules were written. Baker said “traditional media is struggling” and the agency should work to find answers, but needs to remain careful to not make the situation worse. Clyburn said she’s weary of media consolidation and said that a “cacophony of voices” benefits the public. She pledged to keep an eye on the issue if confirmed.
Both praised the committee’s recent passage of a bill that directs the FCC and NTIA to inventory spectrum so that Congress can get a handle on how much is used and unused as lawmakers look for ways to speed the national broadband rollout.
Committee Chairman John Rockefeller of West Virginia and fellow Democrat Byron Dorgan of North Dakota reiterated their view that the agency was run badly in the recent past and that they hope it gets better under new Chairman Julius Genachowski. Rockefeller repeated what he said at the nomination hearing for Genachowski and Commissioner Robert McDowell: “The FCC is a broken agency.” Dorgan said “We’ve been through a long, tortured trail with the FCC.”
Dorgan said he believes both nominees “will be successful on the floor of the Senate.”
The Senate Commerce Committee is set to vote on the Baker and Clyburn nominations next Tuesday.