Update: Energy & Commerce Committee Approves Examining NPR Editorial Standards
Cites "recent controversies" like firing of commentator Juan Williams
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/15/2011 10:47:09 AM
Those would be the firing of commentator Juan Williams, an ensuing investigation into that firing, and the resignation of the person who made that decision, Ellen Weiss, NPR Senior VP, News,
It also plans to investigate the financing of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funds to NPR and PBS, to determine whether that funding should continue.
A Republican-backed continuing resolution has proposed phasing out CPB funding for the rest of the year, while the president proposed forward funding of noncom broadcasting in his just-released budget.
Energy & Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) had already signaled he believed NPR had a political agenda. After Williams' firing over his comments about Muslims on The O'Reilly Factor, Upton said the move "[tore] down the thin veil that once shrouded this taxpayer-subsidized organization's political bias."
He called it "an egregious assault on free speech and individual expression, the touchstones of American journalism."
But CPB is just one of a host of issues for the Committee, which Upton has pledged will take an aggressive oversight role on many fronts.
Among the other communications and technology oversight issues the committee plans to focus on are FCC processes and decisions, particularly whether the FCC does cost-benefit and market analyses on the impact of its regulations; the National Telecommunications & Administration/Rural Utilities Service management of $7 billion in broadband stimulus money; the FCC's National Broadband Plan; Universal Service Fund Reform; privacy and cyber security; and spectrum management.
The section on spectrum management does not mention broadcasters, some of whose spectrum the FCC wants to reclaim, but instead focuses on that spectrum's increasing use for advanced voice, video and data services. The plan for the committee is to "evaluate spectrum-management policies to ensure that such policies are maximizing the efficient use of the public airwaves for innovative communications services. The Committee will also examine whether plans for allocating spectrum maximizes capacity for broadband deployment and encourages investment."
The committee's Communications & Internet Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the FCC's network neutrality order Feb. 16, featuring all the commissioners as witnesses.
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