May 22, 2017

Senators Hassan, Udall Urge Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on the State of Media in U.S.

Senators Hassan, Udall Urge Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on the State of Media in U.S.

In Letter, Senators Highlight Changing Media Landscape, Proliferation of "Fake News"

Letter Also Follows Recent Incidents of Hostility Against Members of the Press by Trump Administration

WASHINGTON - Today, in light of the changing dynamics of how people access and pay for news, the proliferation of so-called "fake news," and recent incidents of hostility against members of the press corps by members of President Trump's Administration, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Tom Udall (D-NM) sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, urging the Committee to hold a hearing on the current state of the media landscape in the United States.

Senators Hassan and Udall are both members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission and the role it plays in broadcast media licensing and communications networks.

"The journalism industry is grappling with a changing media landscape: from the changing dynamics of how people access news, to changing financial calculations, to the proliferation of so-called 'fake news' (both actual disinformation campaigns and the use of the term to slander legitimate news reporting), to a challenging relationship between news media and the Executive branch," the Senators wrote. "There have been a series of recent incidents in which hostility has been exercised against members of the press by members of the Administration, including just last week when a reporter was allegedly manhandled and threatened by security guards after a news conference at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters."

Recognizing the importance of a free press and robust journalism to the strength of our democracy, the Senators called on Chairman John Thune (R-ND) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) to hold a hearing on the current media landscape in the country. The Committee last hosted a hearing on the Future of Journalism in May 2009.

"Given the importance of robust journalism to our democracy, we write to urge the committee to once again hold a hearing on the current state of the U.S. media landscape to refresh the public record," the Senators urged.

Last week, Senators Hassan and Udall sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai demanding an explanation about a reported incident in which FCC security personnel manhandled, threatened, and ejected CQ Roll Call journalist John M. Donnelly following a press conference at the FCC headquarters.

Click here or see below for the Senators' full letter urging the committee to hold a hearing on the state of the U.S. media landscape:

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson:

Joseph Pulitzer famously said, "Our Republic and its press will rise and fall together." There is a clear link between the strength of our nation's democracy and its free press. Our reverence for free public debate is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of the press and guards against censorship.

The journalism industry is grappling with a changing media landscape: from the changing dynamics of how people access news, to changing financial calculations, to the proliferation of so-called "fake news" (both actual disinformation campaigns and the use of the term to slander legitimate news reporting), to a challenging relationship between news media and the Executive branch. There have been a series of recent incidents in which hostility has been exercised against members of the press by members of the Administration, including just last week when a reporter was allegedly manhandled and threatened by security guards after a news conference at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters. Given the importance of robust journalism to our democracy, we write to urge the committee to once again hold a hearing on the current state of the U.S. media landscape to refresh the public record.

The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation plays an important role in shaping the environment in which journalism and media exist. With oversight jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission's role in broadcast media licensing and communications networks, the Committee is poised to examine the state of independent news, journalism, and the broadcast media landscape.

As you know, in May 2009, the Committee hosted a hearing on the Future of Journalism, at which Members were given an opportunity to hear from industry stakeholders about this important sector of our economy.Muchhas changed in the last eight years. For example, newspaper circulation has declined by an average of 4.2 percent per year in those years. The percentage of adults who use at least one social media website has increased from 38 percent to 68 percent, and the percentage of adults who primarily receive their news from social media is at a record 62 percent.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. We look forward to further examining the state of journalism through the lens of the Committee of Commerce, Science, and Transportation. We applaud your leadership of this Committee and look forward to working with you on this over the coming few months.

Sincerely,

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