Outdated US media rules to be taken off the books

Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:56pm EDT

* FCC acts to remove outdated, burdensome regulations

* Fairness Doctrine to be eliminated

By Jasmin Melvin

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is stripping 83 rules from its books as part of its reform agenda and commitment to a request from President Barack Obama earlier in the year to improve or remove any rules that were out of date, the agency said on Monday.

Among the eliminated rules are Fairness Doctrine regulations that were intended to promote honest, balanced discussion of controversial issues when introduced in 1949.

But as more broadcast stations and cable channels became available, the need to mandate a diversity of viewpoints eroded and the rules were abolished in 1987. The FCC has not enforced the rules in more than two decades, but they were never officially taken off the books.

"As I have said, striking this from our books ensures there can be no mistake that what has long been a dead letter remains dead," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

Genachowski called the Fairness Doctrine an unnecessary distraction with the potential to curb free speech.

The rules threatened to strip broadcasters' licenses if they did not air opposing viewpoints. Their elimination protects religious broadcasters, conservative talk radio and others worried about the implications of the rules' return.

Other rules deleted included media-related regulations that have not been in effect for years. The FCC said the 83 rules eliminated will not have any significant impact on broadcast businesses.

The FCC is expected to adopt an order as early as Wednesday to send to the Federal Register. Once the order is published in the Federal Register, the rules will officially be removed from the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

Genachowski directed FCC staff in January to consider the costs of regulations and their impact on innovation after Obama ordered government agencies to review their rules -- even though the mandate did not extend to independent agencies.

The chairman welcomed an executive order in July that called on independent agencies such as the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission to review and streamline their existing regulations.

More than 50 outdated rules have already been eliminated as part of the FCC's reform agenda aimed at removing obsolete regulations and revising others to keep up with new technology.

Review of existing rules continues at the FCC, Genachowski said, as well as other steps to foster competition, investment and job creation. (Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; editing by Andre Grenon)

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