The newest member of the Federal Communications Commission is urging fellow commissioners to throw out the long-standing policy that encourages radio and television stations to devote a segment of program time to religious topics. Lee Loevinger, apparently embarking on a campaign to revise FCC regulations, says he regards the policy on religious programming as unconstitutional. His statements mark the first time the commission’s policy has been put on the spot.

Loevinger fired the opening barrage in a speech before a National Association of Broadcasters’ meeting. He followed that up with an address last month at the twenty-second annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters, an evangelically oriented group, in Washington’s Mayflower Hotel.

“The commission has gone far beyond the limits that have been marked by the Supreme Court as permissible government action in the field of religion.” Loevinger told the NRB.

For years the FCC has granted and renewed radio and television licenses only to companies and individuals that show evidence of serving community needs. The FCC has consistently regarded religious programs as one of the community needs. Station owners have therefore assumed it necessary to carry at least a few religious programs in order to retain a license to operate.

Loevinger is a Unitarian. A Kennedy appointee, he took oath as a member of the FCC on June 11, 1963. His outburst against the prevailing FCC policy coincided with an article in the Reporter magazine by Marcus Cohn, a lawyer who specializes in communications cases, also challenging the policy on religious programming. Loevinger’s forty-minute NRB speech was a condensation of a specially prepared paper, “Religious Liberty and Broadcasting,” which covered ...

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