Sunday, July 29, 2007

FCC Chair: Fairness Doctrine Not Needed

Somebody let Michael Savage know he can breathe easy now. Heh. Not that he was really worried, but he was pissed, and for good reason. The FCC has a spotty record at best on preserving independent broadcasting freedom.

Jul 26, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Communications Commission has no intention of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine imposing a requirement of balanced coverage of issues on public airwaves, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said.

Martin, in a letter written this week to Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and made public Thursday, said the agency found no compelling reason to revisit its 1987 decision that enforcing the federal rule was not in the public interest.

Several Democratic lawmakers suggested that Congress take another look at the doctrine after conservative radio talk show hosts aggressively attacked an immigration reform bill when it was on the Senate floor, contributing to its defeat.

Pence and other Republicans in both the House and Senate countered by introducing legislation to bar the FCC from reinstating the rule.

Under the doctrine, first instituted in the late 1940s, broadcasters could lose their licenses if they failed to give free airtime to opposing sides on controversial issues. Martin, in his letter, said government regulation was not needed to ensure public access to a wide range of opinion. "Indeed, with the continued proliferation of additional sources of information and programming, including satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the need for the Fairness Doctrine has lessened even further since 1987," he wrote.

Pence, in a joint statement with Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., welcomed Martin's position but said Congress should still pass his legislation so that no future administration or FCC chairman could revive the doctrine without an act of Congress.

We commend the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for his commitment to free and independent airwaves in America. Nevertheless it is imperative that Congress pass the Broadcaster Freedom Act to ensure that no future administration or FCC chairman have the power to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine without an act of Congress. Congress should heed the call of Chairman Martin and permanently reject the Fairness Doctrine by enacting the Broadcast Freedom Act into law.
He has good reason to be concerned...

While FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has alleged he sees no reason to revisit the 1987 ruling, Congress, meanwhile, is sitting around looking very much like the 800-pound gorilla, wondering how they can make America even safer from the likes of social paragon Nicole Richie...

ars technica

A recent decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals made the occasional f-bomb safe for network viewing, but some senators now want to ensure that even a single blue comment or image can be grounds for an FCC slapdown.

S. 1780, the Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act, has just cleared the Senate Commerce Committee and is now on its way to the full Senate. The bill, only a few sentences long, makes it clear that the FCC has the ability to regulate even fleeting uses of indecent words and images.

The Second Circuit ruled earlier this year that such a policy change (the FCC formerly focused on material that "dwells" on indecent content) was "arbitrary and capricious." Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) then introduced the bill to give the FCC a good reason for its actions, and it found support from the two aging chairmen of the Senate Commerce Committee, Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens (R-AK).

During a committee meeting, Stevens told his colleagues, "Radio and broadcast TV are still the way most Americans get their news and entertainment. And whether sitting in a car with your children or in front of the TV, the American public should be able to expect that they will not be barraged with unexpected indecency, whether it is through an image or a word."

The bill would still allow the FCC to consider single words and images in context, and it does not issue any guidance on whether any particular words or images are indecent. Still, we're pretty sure Nicole Ritchie's "Have you ever tried to get cow sh-- out of a Prada purse? It's not so f------ simple" was the sort of thing senators had in mind as being ripe for censorship.

Maybe so, but anyone listening to Nicole Richie should not be surprised when trash occasionally spills from her lips. Is this really the kind of "security" protection we need from Congress?

Will you sleep better tonight knowing our Congresspersons are working hard to keep celebrities from inadvertently "offending" little ears?

In other news...

Homeland Security bill heads to White House

Chicago Sun-Times
July 28, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Congress sent President Bush legislation Friday to intensify anti-terror efforts in the United States, shifting money to high-risk states and cities and expanding screening of air and sea cargo to stave off future Sept. 11-style attacks.

The measure carries out major recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission. The bill, passed by the House 371-40, ranks among the top accomplishments of the six-month-old Democratic Congress. The Senate approved the measure late Thursday 85-8, and the White House said the president would sign the bill.

The bill elevates the importance of risk factors in determining which states and cities get federal
security funds -- that would mean more money for such cities as New York and Washington -- and also puts money into a new program to assure that security officials at every level can communicate with one another.

It would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years and sets a five-year goal of scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.

Senate Backs Amendment to Spend $3 Billion on Border Security Efforts
By Melanie Hunter Senior Editor
July 26, 2007

( - The Senate on Thursday approved an amendment devoting $3 billion to increase border security efforts as part of a $38 billion homeland security funding bill. It passed 89-1.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), provides funding to build a 700-mile long fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, as called for in the Secure Fence Act. It also requires the federal government to establish and to demonstrate operational control over 100 percent of the land and maritime borders between the U.S. and Mexico.

"In the age of terrorism, regaining operational control of our nation's borders is a national security issue of the highest order," said Graham in a statement.

"There is no doubt we need better border security at our southern border including more boots on the ground, more miles of fencing, better technology which acts as a force multiplier, additional detention beds, and unmanned aerial vehicles," he said. "My amendment provides funding for these important and much-needed changes in federal policy."

The amendment provides to hire, train and deploy 23,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents. It seeks to permanently end the "catch and release" of illegal aliens by providing the resources necessary to detain up to 45,000 individuals a day.

The amendment also provides funding for 300 miles of vehicle barriers at the border, 105 ground-based radar and camera towers, and the deployment of four unmanned aerial vehicles at the border. In addition, it provides funds to cover the deportation of absconders and visa overstays.

President Bush earlier pledged to veto
the homeland security bill, because it includes $2.3 billion more funding than he requested, but the White House said Bush may at least approve the funding for the border.

"To the extent Congress supports additional emergency funding, we want to work with them to make sure it is spent on the highest border security priorities," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

But even if the president vetoes the bill, Republicans predict the measure will have the votes to override the presidential veto.

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