The FCC will not proceed with an overall study of the information needs of communities, after Republicans urged the commission to abandon it and not merely a portion that included questions for media owners, news directors and journalists on how they choose stories to cover.
By law, the FCC is required to report to Congress every three years on the barriers that may prevent entrepreneurs and small businesses from competing in the media marketplace, in what is called a “critical information needs” study.
An FCC spokesman said on Friday that the commission “will reassess the best way to fulfill its obligation to Congress to identify barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses.”
Republicans targeted the study after the FCC set up a pilot program in Columbia, S.C., that included a set of proposed questions for newsrooms. Last week, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the commission would abandon that portion of the study, but a key Republican said that the entire survey should be dropped. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), chairman of the House Communications and Technology subcommittee, had said he would propose legislation, and he planned a hearing to discuss the issue.
An FCC spokeswoman last week denied that the study was any effort to dictate what stations should cover.
“Any suggestion that the FCC intends to regulate the speech of news media or plans to put monitors in America’s newsrooms is false,” she said.
Walden and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the FCC’s announcement was “a positive step.”
“This is a victory for the First Amendment and freedom of the press,” they said in a statement.