Last month, Senator Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, made remarks at a hearing on retransmission consent regarding his thoughts political coverage from Fox News and MSNBC:
“We need new catalysts for quality news and entertainment programming,” he said. “I hunger for quality news. I’m tired of the right and the left. There’s a little bug inside of me which wants the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, ‘Out. Off. End. Good-bye.’ It’d be a big favor to political discourse, our ability to do our work here in Congress and to the American people to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly in their future.”
I followed up with Mr. Rockefeller on Tuesday afternoon and asked about his previous statements at the hearing.
“All I said was that I think, not MSNBC and Fox as a whole, but there are political elements within the far right and far left of center have done a lot of damage…and particularly during the election,” Senator Rockefeller said. “There’s this vitriol to crush everybody else. They don’t come under regulation. They don’t come under the FCC. So how does cable, which is losing viewer-ship like crazy to the internet and everything else, how do they get their act together and give us decent news? I want good news coverage. And I can’t talk about public broadcasting, because my wife is in it, otherwise I would.”
There appears to be more movement by those on the left to have the FCC have stricter standards in when licensing or re-licensing a broadcast outfit. Reverend Al Sharpton told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz on Monday that talk radio host Rush Limbaugh should be taken off the air by the FCC. Mr. Sharpton said he is meeting with FCC officials this week to discuss the matter. The FCC has yet to reply from an inquiry sent to their offices on Reverend Sharpton’s remarks.
In the meantime, Congressman Joe Barton, Texas Republican, blasted the FCC over a proposed regulation from Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps. Fox News reports:
“It’s a pretty serious situation that we’re in,” Copps told BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay last week. “We are not producing the body of news and information that democracy needs to conduct its civic dialogue, we’re not producing as much news as we did five, 10 years, 15 years ago and we have to reverse that trend or I think we are going to be pretty close to denying our citizens the essential news and information that they need to have in order to make intelligent decisions about the full direction of their country.”
Barton sent Copps a letter on Monday asking him whether he believes the FCC should reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, if his public values test is meant to bring back the ascertainment rules and whether he believes the panel’s five commissioners can do a better job of ensuring Americans have access to a wide diversity of content and viewpoints than the marketplace.
The FCC is scheduled to vote on Commissioner Copps proposal at the end of the month.