SOURCE: Author Corydon B. Dunham

Author Corydon B. Dunham

March 09, 2012 14:34 ET

Former NBC Legal Exec Cory Dunham Warns of New Threat to Free Speech

STAMFORD, CT--(Marketwire - Mar 9, 2012) - The man who served as NBC-TV's legal counsel for 25 years, Corydon B. Dunham, warns in his new book, "Government Control of News: A Constitutional Challenge," (, that TV censorship rules revoked in 1987 are back on the table.

The proposed new Localism, Balance and Diversity Doctrine could eventually also affect news on the Internet, Dunham writes. The FCC is planning to transfer the broadcast spectrum used by local television to the Internet; the agency already has started to regulate the Internet.

Dunham's book is the result of a study initiated at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institute. It recounts the evolution of government control of television news and the Fairness Doctrine -- the rules by which the federal government regulated TV journalism.

"The government justified the Fairness Doctrine as a way to ensure stations aired opposing viewpoints on issues," Dunham says. But it became a tool for censoring the news.

"If a complaint was made about a view that had been broadcast, the FCC could order that the view be changed or that other views be presented," he says.

Failure to comply could result in no license renewal.

In 1987, the FCC revoked the Fairness Doctrine after finding it had deterred news reporting on controversial issues, and was used to suppress viewpoints, Dunham says. In 2008, the FCC released the new proposed body of rules for TV news -- the Localism, Balance and Diversity Doctrine.

"It has many of the same characteristics of the old Fairness Doctrine," Dunham says.

In 2011, the FCC-sponsored Future of Media Study recommended the localism doctrine proceeding be ended. But the present chief of the White House regulatory office has long recommended that the government regulate news to advance its political and social objectives, Dunham says.

About Corydon B. Dunham

Corydon B. Dunham is a Harvard Law School graduate. His "Government Control of News" study was expanded and developed for the Corydon B. Dunham Fellowship for the First Amendment at Harvard Law School and the Dunham Open Forum for First Amendment Values at Bowdoin College. As an NBC executive from 1965 to 1990, Dunham oversaw legal and government matters and Broadcast Standards. He served on the board of directors of the TV Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Corporate Counsel Association.

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