FCC, Hill Flatly Deny Meetings With Waxman Staff On 'Fairness'

Spectator stands by story that staffs did meet to talk about some variant of restoring FCC doctrine

The FCC has joined a spokesperson for the House Energy & Commerce Committee in flatly denying that any FCC staffers met with staffers of House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) last week about reviving the fairness doctrine or something like it.

Bringing back the doctrine, which required broadcasters to seek out opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance, has become a hot issue in Washington after various Democrats suggested it could, or should, return in some form.

A reporter blogging under the anonymous "Prowler" moniker for the Spectator, had reported that "Senior FCC staff working for acting Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps held meetings last week with policy and legislative advisers to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to discuss ways the committee can create openings for the FCC to put in place a form of the "Fairness Doctrine" without actually calling it such."

 "Those meetings did not happen," FCC spokesman David Fiske told B&C Wednesday. "FCC staffers did not meet with the Waxman staff. We flatly deny that [American Spectator] story."

A committee spokesperson was equally definitive in an e-mailed statement to B&C: "The American Spectator printed a fictitious story alleging that Chairman Waxman and the House Energy and Commerce Committee were having conversations with the FCC about putting in place a form of the Fairness Doctrine. The American Spectator report is false and was written without any documentation or attribution."

American Spectator publisher Al Regnery defended the report, but would not reveal the identity of the anonymous reporter.

"We stand by the story," he told B&C, suggesting the FCC and Commerce were engaging in semantic denials. "Probably what it is is they call it by another name, so they'll say they didn't meet about whatever it was we called it because they called it something else."