FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, speaking at a Media Institute Awards banquet Tuesday evening, said the First Amendment "is regularly under assault by government at all levels." He added: "At a time when prosecutors threaten reporters with jail time for doing their jobs and when public universities impose speech codes on students, it is ever more critical for us to be vigilant in protecting our most cherished liberties."
Pai made waves last year when he spoke out vigorously against a proposed "Critical Information Needs" study by the FCC. As Pai characterized it, the study would have had researchers asking newsroom employees about their story-selection process and asking them how they intended to be sure the community received information the commission decided was "critical." Pai told the Media Institute crowd, "This government-sponsored intrusion into the newsroom would have been completely inappropriate, especially by the agency that licenses radio and television stations. Fortunately, when the issue was brought to light, Americans across the political spectrum raised their voices in opposition." The study was ultimately canceled.
But Pai said that defunct study hasn't been his only concern -- and cited the controversy over the name of the Washington Redskins football team. He didn't offer his own opinion on the name, but said, "I do find it disturbing that there's an eager constituency urging the federal government to ban the team's name from our nation's airwaves." If the FCC were to do that, he said, "We would be squelching public debate about an issue of public concern. We would be standing in the way of media outlets reporting the news. And we would be prohibiting speech simply because we disagree with the viewpoint that is being expressed. No federal agency should cross that line."
After some remarks on campus speech codes, Pai concluded, "The past few months have shown that the American people treasure and will defend the First Amendment. That means we can win these battles so long as government overreach is exposed to the light of day."
(11/19/2014 7:42:04 PM)
How about fines for indecent content? I know, those largely came under previous administrations, and to be fair, the commission has really backed off on them over the past few years. But the rules are still on the books, enforced incorrectly to include all broadcasts (though they're written for cable only). Let's work toward repealing them before commissioners go out preaching about First Amendment rights. It'd be an act of not only goodwill, but getting rid of unconstitutional federal policy.
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