FCC to Abandon Study That Triggered GOP Ire

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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.

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  1. Court Y. says:

    While the FCC’s intentions and purposes may have been neutral and perhaps had integrity, it was its approach that caused the firestorm for most citizens in all political parties, including Democrats. The FCC wanted to directly enter into newsrooms rather than merely send neutral third party consultants to gather the information on behalf of the FCC and public. Few executives in any media corporation want government itself inside the halls–once there for one purpose, the inevitable second and third and forth purpose comes until government is the media. Ask WWII Germans about how that works for a history lesson.

    All that said, it is clear, given the massive lack of investigative or government watch-dog journalism under the current major media organs, that the FCC does have a legitimate need to study the issues on behalf of our national security and democracy–liberty cannot be sustained if the citizenry are substantially shielded from the very facts they need in order to direct their collective democratic based society. Even though we have the Internet, new media, etc., studies show most Americans still depend largely on the major news media networks (broadcast, cable) so if those networks are more focused on profit-taking and not doing a sound job in watch-dogging government on behalf of the citizenry, then we have a legitimate right to know the facts and take actions to correct them.

    At least the FCC appeared to have had good intentions in mind but there has been so much overreaching and unilateral executive decision-making trumping the Constitution (or appearing to do so) by the White House of late, that the GOP and others have been pre-conditioned to be “gun-shy” and ready to pounce—they likely wanted to be safe than sorry.

    What is puzzling is that these very same issues potentially impact everyone, of every political stripe, so targeting the GOP seems unfair–as if the bigger issues of Freedom of the Press, Constitutionality, and the perception or potential for government controlled media were not the primary issues that should have concerned us all. And for the record, I am not affiliated with, or an endorser of the GOP, but I do support a competent mainstream news media that ensures ample investigative reporting and neutral-based watchdogging of our government across all issues—and it’s clear that such standards have been forsaken. Therefore, I applaud the FCC for at least trying to figure out what’s going wrong and why toward trying to improve news neutrality and deep investigative practices that we value—if not, why is the word “Watergate” so worn-out yet used profusely across the nation—and where did all the Woodwards and Bernsteins go that kept those “crooks” in all parties honest or exposed?

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