Get FCC rules right

Thankfully, we live in a society governed by laws and rules.

Thankfully, we live in a society governed by laws and rules.

We're also blessed with the freedoms of speech and press, which ensure a full and free discourse on all issues by all of society. Both are guaranteed to all Americans in the Constitution's First Amendment.

By invoking the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) sponsorship identification rules to make its case against VNRs, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is attempting to replace these First Amendment guarantees with its own tortured interpretation of the FCC's rules.

In a report presented to the FCC last April, the CMD also called for the government to intervene and regulate the editorial decision-making process in TV newsrooms. The former proves the CMD utterly failed in its legal due diligence before filing its FCC report. The latter, ironically, has nothing whatever to do with "democracy."

In letters filed with the FCC, our attorneys and those for the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) exploded the arguments made in CMD's report. We showed that the rules as written don't appear to apply to any of the cases cited in that report. In its challenge of the report, the RTNDA argued that the FCC's inquiry into VNRs represented "an unprecedented regulatory intrusion into newsroom operations" and called for a halt to the inquiry.

Not surprisingly, the PRSA has also taken issue with the CMD report. The PRSA, representing 21,000 PR pros, joined the National Association of Broadcast Communicators in issuing a joint statement reaffirming the need for electronic journalists to voluntarily identify the sources of the third-party content they present, but also charging that the CMD report seriously distorts the FCC's rules while it creates the false impression that numerous TV stations are violating the rules.

Our letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners, together with that of the RTNDA (both posted at our Web site,, presents an overwhelming body of legal precedent the FCC has set governing both the sponsorship identification rules and its very limited role as an arbiter of electronic journalism. It is now incumbent on the FCC to weigh what the applicable rules are against what the CMD wishes the rules were.

Kevin Foley
National Association of Broadcast Communicators

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