The FCC receives a wide variety of comments and complaints from consumers about whether networks, stations, news reporters or commentators give inaccurate or one-sided news presentations, fail to cover certain events or cover them adequately, overemphasize or dramatize certain aspects of news events. Other complaints are received regarding the conduct of journalists in the gathering and reporting of news.

The FCC's authority to respond to these complaints is narrow in scope and the Commission is prohibited by law from engaging in censorship or infringing on First Amendment rights of the press.

What can the FCC do?

The FCC cannot interfere with a broadcaster's selection and presentation of material for the news and/or its commentary. However, the FCC does regulate content in some narrow areas. Federal law prohibits or limits the broadcast of obscene, indecent or profane language as defined by U.S. courts. Also, the FCC may issue penalties for knowingly broadcasting false information.

What responsibilities do broadcasters have?

As public trustees, broadcasters may not intentionally distort the news. The FCC has stated publicly that "rigging or slanting the news is a most heinous act against the public interest." The FCC may act to protect the public interest when it has received documented evidence, such as testimony from persons who have direct personal knowledge of an intentional falsification of the news. Without such documented evidence, the FCC generally cannot intervene.

What if I have comments or concerns about a specific news broadcast or commentary?

All concerns or comments about a specific news broadcast or commentary should be directed to the local station and network involved, so that the people responsible for making the programming decisions can become better informed about audience opinion.

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Complaints About Broadcast Journalism (pdf)


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Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017