Free Press has helped put together a letter to the FCC and Congress in support of Mark Lloyd, the FCC's associate general counsel and chief diversity officer.
Lloyd came under fire from conservative bloggers and commentators, and some Republican legislators, over his writings as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he was co-author of a June 2007 paper, "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio."
The letter, issued on the eve of an FCC oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee where the issue could come up, says its purpose is to "speak out" against the "the falsehoods and misinformation that are threatening to derail important work by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission."
The letter is addressed to "FCC Commissioners and Congressional Leaders" and points to attacks by "prominent cable TV and radio hosts."
Lloyd is the latest flashpoint for an issue that has been hot for months, tied to proposed FCC localism initiatives that could include local programming advisory boards. Those boards have been viewed by some critics of localism proposals as a back-door version of the fairness doctrine, though FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has on several occasions said he would not re-impose the doctrine.
That is the doctrine, scrapped by the FCC as unconstitutional in 1987 that required broadcasters to actively seek out and air opposing views on issues of public importance. Its demise helped give rise to conservative talk radio.
Sen. Charles Grassley, one of the people Genachowski reassured on the fairness doctrine front, has since said he was concerned the chairman was backing away from that opposition, citing the appointment of Lloyd.
The groups signing on to the letter say there is a difference between pursuing diversity and censoring or interfering with local programming, saying that "lies and innuendo" have tried to paint Lloyd's important work into the latter corner.
"At the core of President Obama's media and technology agenda is a commitment to 'diversity in the ownership of broadcast media' and a pledge to 'promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints,'" the letter concludes. "Now is the time to further that agenda, not to retreat from it.
"We ask you, as leaders on these key media issues, to draw a line in the sand now, speak out against the unfounded attacks, and redouble your efforts to enact a policy agenda that will strengthen our economy, our society and our democracy."
Groups signing on include the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Communications Workers of America, Rainbow/PUSH, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, and NOW.