BREAKING: FCC Withdraws Big-Brother Newsroom Intimidation ‘Monitoring’ ProjectPosted: February 21, 2014
Intrusive media survey idea was doomed from the start
News Dump: Any surprise this withdrawal is announced on Friday, the customary day to bury unfavorable announcements? This Stalinist-progressive cuckoo-bananas Obama-era idea had no hope of lasting more than 48 hours in the spotlight before being abandoned, buried, disowned. Or is coming back? Do they really plan to ‘tweak’ it, revise it, reintroduce it quietly? Good luck with that.
In the meantime, the administration can enjoy a media transition that worked in their favor: the installation of a new asset on NBC.
The Federal Communications Commission has pulled the plug on its plan to conduct an intrusive probe of newsrooms as part of a “Critical Information Needs” survey of local media markets.
However, a revised version of the survey could raise new concerns: that it will trade its now-kiboshed news questions for a demographic survey that might justify new race-based media ownership rulemaking.
“[I]n the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate,” the FCC announced in a statement Friday. “Chairman [Tom] Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required. Last week, Chairman Wheeler informed lawmakers that that Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters and would be modifying the draft study. Yesterday, the Chairman directed that those questions be removed entirely.”
The Critical Information Needs (CIN) survey has been a slow-burning controversy since ever since this reporter first revealed its existence in October 2013.
First Amendment supporters objected that the design of the survey would have had FCC representatives interrogating newsroom staffers about how they make coverage decisions and select (or spike) story ideas. Many commentators objected to the potential intimidation involved in such a survey.
The original plan of the survey would also have taken the FCC out of its traditional purview of regulating supposedly scarce airwaves. Because the CIN sought to discover “underserved” consumers in a variety of “media ecologies,” the survey would have included not only broadcast media but newspapers, blogs and online news.
However, there have been consistent doubts that the survey was ever going to happen. In a December followup article I found that none of the major broadcast, print or online media in Columbia, South Carolina – the market selected for the Critical Information Needs pilot study – had heard from either the FCC or Silver Spring, Maryland-based Social Solutions International (SSI) the FCC’s contractor on the project.
Columbia media professionals, along with the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, reiterated Friday that the pilot survey never began.
“No one has been contacted in Columbia,” WLTX General Manager Rich O’Dell told National Review Friday, prior to Wheeler’s announcement. “There’s been no official contact by anybody at the FCC or anywhere else…”
- Conservative backlash kills FCC plan to survey America’s newsrooms (washingtonpost.com)
- FCC To Revise Newsroom Study, Denies Intent To Regulate News Media Speech (allaccess.com)
- FCC Backs Off on Scheme to Regulate the Press (powerlineblog.com)
- FCC Announces It Will Back Off Plan to Monitor Newsrooms (theblaze.com)
- FCC Throws In the Towel On Monitors In Newsrooms (patdollard.com)
- First Amendment Victory! FCC Pulls Plug on News Monitoring Program (ijreview.com)
- FCC Suspends Controversial “Critical Information Needs” Study (reason.com)
- FCC drops plan to survey newsrooms (marketwatch.com)
- BREAKING: FCC Pulls Plug On Plan To Place Government Monitors In Newsrooms… (weaselzippers.us)
- Newsroom Study Sent Back For Tweaking After Trial Balloon Launch (independentsentinel.com)