In the News

Good Riddance: FCC Abandons Chilling Newsroom Study


Energy and Commerce Committee leaders welcomed Friday’s overdue announcement by the Federal Communications Commission that it was scrapping its Critical Information Needs (CIN) study that would have included interviewing journalists and other news professionals about their decision-making processes. The committee first questioned the FCC about the controversial study last December. Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) applauded the commission’s decision, expressing relief that this dangerous study that could have led to a revival of the Fairness Doctrine was no longer moving forward.

February 28, 2014

Finally! FCC Kills Newsroom Study
Critics claimed it violated press freedom

The Federal Communications Commission finally killed the study that caused an uproar because it called for researchers to query the stations it licenses and newspapers about how they make editorial decisions in the newsroom.

The short, two-sentence statement from a spokesperson (not chairman Tom Wheeler), came late Friday, the time the FCC always seems to pick for controversial news. …

The study triggered two weeks of controversy about government intrusion into freedom of the press. House communications and technology subcommittee chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) vowed to hold a hearing and introduce a bill to kill the study even after the FCC said it would take out the offending newsroom questions. …

To read the full article online, click here.

March 1, 2014

Byron York: FCC Kills Controversial Newsroom Study, Still Faces Questions on Capitol Hill

The Federal Communications Commission now says it has killed a plan to question journalists around the country to assess whether those journalists are meeting government-defined “critical information needs.” The FCC had come under heavy criticism — almost all of it from conservatives — over the plan since Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai outlined its details in a Feb. 10 Wall Street Journal op-ed.

In a classic late-Friday-afternoon announcement — timing usually employed to ensure that a story will not receive much coverage — the commission announced simply, “The FCC will not move forward with the Critical Information Needs study.” …

As the controversy grew, it first appeared the FCC was searching for a way to keep the study alive. …

Now, though, the study has been canceled altogether. Why the change? It’s most likely the decisive factor was continuing opposition to (and scrutiny of) the plan on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it would “pursue legislative solutions to take the Federal Communications Commission’s Critical Information Needs study off the books.” Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden made clear they were not going to allow the FCC to go forward without a lot of trouble.

It’s one thing to take hits in the conservative media. It’s quite another to find the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee breathing down your neck. Just days after the “legislative solutions” announcement, the FCC beat a hasty retreat. …

What is sure now is that the FCC will go forward under sharpened oversight from House Republicans. “We welcome the news that the FCC is dropping its ill-conceived encroachment into the newsroom,” said Upton and Walden in a statement released late Friday. “This is a victory for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. But this unprecedented and dangerous intrusion on America’s newsrooms should never have been pursued in the first place. Although important questions remain, [the FCC’s] action is a positive step.”

The key phrase: “important questions remain.” The FCC has put an end to the immediate controversy, but not to its problems on Capitol Hill.

To read the full column online, click here.

March 2, 2014

Gordon Crovitz: The Third Rail of Regulation
The FCC’s attempt to butt into newsrooms reminds us that the agency poses the greatest threat to an open Internet.

Last week the Federal Communications Commission dropped a planned study of newsrooms, following objections that the government has no business meddling with journalism. The critics were right, but it’s a shame the FCC gave up so quickly. Even the brief experience of being micromanaged by regulators reminded reporters and editors of the kind of government overreach every other industry routinely experiences. …

Thanks to the First Amendment, journalists operate in the least regulated industry. Even broadcasters, whose licenses have to be renewed every eight years, are supposed to have free speech. The FCC made the mistake of touching the third rail of regulation by applying the heavy hand of government to journalism. …

To read the full column online, click here.


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