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Big Brother in the news

February 20, 2014

Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by an FCC commissioner who complains about a new FCC initiative.

The FCC Wades Into the Newsroom

News organizations often disagree about what Americans need to know. MSNBC, for example, apparently believes that traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., is the crisis of our time. Fox News, on the other hand, chooses to cover the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi more heavily than other networks. The American people, for their part, disagree about what they want to watch.

But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.

Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.

The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

H.T. Paul


Update

FCC throws out plan to question reporters about news coverage

The Federal Communications Commission has backtracked on a plan to ask journalists about news coverage decisions after protest from one of the commission’s members.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, part of the commission’s Republican minority, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on February 10 criticizing an FCC study on the news media. […]

Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told staff to remove the offending questions, a commission statement today said.

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