Watchdog group Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Administration in October, in order to obtain records relating to media monitoring plan records.
More specifically, the FOIA is against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and relates to a “Critical Information Needs” (CIN) pilot study conducted by the government agency. The study revolved around how media outlets make editorial decisions when covering stories.
The FCC’s Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs study, announced in May 2013, had a stated purpose to analyse the “access/barriers to CINs in diverse American communities … with special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations.”
In order to conduct the study, the FCC planned to ask media outlets various questions. Some of these questions were: What is the news philosophy of the station? Who decides which stories are covered? What are the demographics of the news management staff? What are the demographics of the news production staff?
Subsequent to announcing the study, the FCC received considerable backlash. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) wrote in a December 2013 letter to the FCC that the study was aiming to “control the political speech of journalists.” The effort was further dubbed “constitutionally questionable” after FCC commissioner Ajit Pai wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the endeavor would “thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country.”
The negative responses prompted the federal government to put the study on hold in February.
In a press release obtained by Breitbart Texas, Judicial Watch claims it filed the FOIA request in an effort to obtain “any and all records in the possession of the [FCC] relating to the Multi-Market Critical Information study to be conducted by the FCC, including, but not limited to, studies, memoranda and communications between FCC commissioners and/or staff members related to Multi-Market Critical Information Needs study.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement, “Once again we see the heavy hand of the Obama administration hovering over the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. It’s little wonder that Reporters Without Borders’ recent survey of world press freedom ranked the United States forty-sixth, below even that of Botswana and Romania – and only one position above Haiti. The FCC now says it has killed the study but we are skeptical – especially since we now have had to sue in federal court to get information about this issue.”
Fitton continued, “True to the Obama administration’s racialist agenda, the FCC sought to pressure media under the guise of racial diversity and community organizing language. This FCC scandal also echoes the Obama IRS abuse, which illegally targeted groups and individuals based upon their political philosophy. The FCC, which is charged with making sure regulated media companies obey the law, refuses to obey the Freedom of Information Act and tell the American people why it wanted to interrogate newsmen and monitor the blogs of everyday citizens.”
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.