Senate Democrats Demand the FCC Tell a Broadcaster What It Can and Cannot Say

After a meeting voting to end net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai smiles while listening to a question from a reporter, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


If you want to see how fascism strikes, this is a great example.

As I’ve posted a couple of times, Sinclair Broadcasting is under attack by the left because it has established an editorial policy that discourages sloppy, poorly sourced and outright fake stories. This means they are not CNN. They’ve also been criticized because their promos on the issue implies they are better than other news outlets…I have to admit I didn’t know competing based on accuracy and quality was against journalistic ethics but at least they didn’t call themselves “the leader in news.” (See my posts here | here | here.)

Not content to merely badmouth a law-abiding company acting well within its rights, twelve Democrat senators wrote a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai asking him to a) put the acquisition of the Tribune Media Company on hold, b) to launch an investigation of Sinclair, and c) to suspend Sinclair’s broadcast licenses.

Along the way, they discovered a new interpretation of the First Amendment…one that ignores Congress meddling in the operations of a member of the “free press.” They determined that the owner of a broadcast outlet directing their employees on how to cover stories violated the First Amendment. In most businesses that is called “supervision.”


And just to sweeten it, they managed to call Pai a crook.

I don’t have a full copy of Pai’s response but here’s the critical part:

Dear Senator Cantwell:

Thank you for your letter requesting that the Commission investigate a broadcaster based on the content of its news coverage and promotion of that coverage. In light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press, I must respectfully decline.

A free media is vital to our democracy. That is why during my time at the Commission I have consistently opposed any effort to infringe upon the freedom of the press and have fought to eliminate regulations that impede the gathering and dissemination of news.

I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts, but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage or promotion of that coverage. Instead, I agree with Senator Markey that “[a]ny insinuation that elected officials could use the levers of government to control or sensor [sic] the news media would represent a startling degradation of the freedom of the press.” I also take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment I made to several members of the Senate Commerce Committee last year that the Commission under my leadership would “not act in a manner that violates the First Amendment and stifles or penalizes free speech by electronic media, directly or indirectly.


The letter to Markey that Pai refers to was when Markey was wetting himself over a Trump tweet complaining about NBC and wondering, aloud, if their licensing could be challenged.

This kind of direct assault on a private company and the First Amendment by a group of senators who are not even operating as an official committee of the Senate is just grotesque and shows the danger the Constitution is in if these clowns regain the reins of power in the near future.



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