FCC to Monitor Newsrooms

FCC to Monitor Newsrooms

In a frightening development truly reminiscent of George Orwell’s Big Brother, the FCC has plans to invade newsrooms around the nation with government contractors who will survey the outlets’ products and decide if they meet Americans’ “critical information needs.”

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who was appointed to the FCC by Barack Obama and is the daughter of House Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, said in 2012, “This study begins the charting of a course to a more effective delivery of necessary information to all citizens… [the FCC] must emphatically insist that we leave no American behind when it comes to meeting the needs of those in varied and vibrant communities of our nation – be they native born, immigrant, disabled, non-English speaking, low-income, or other.” 

Who determines what the nation’s “critical needs” are? The Obama administration.

The plan is referred to as “the CIN Study.” Ajit Pai, one of the FCC’s five commissioners (and one of two Republicans), condemned the action, saying, “This has never been put to an FCC vote; it was just announced. I’ve never had any input into the process.”

The University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy were commissioned to decipher which bits of information are “critical” for citizens to have. Their answer: Information so Americans can “live safe and healthy lives” and “have full access to educational, employment, and business opportunities.” 

Eight “critical needs” for information (CINs) were listed: for emergencies and risks, health and welfare, the environment, education, transportation, economic opportunities, civic information, and political information.

Pai cautioned, “An enterprising regulator could run wild with a lot of these topics. The implicit message to the newsroom is they need to start covering these eight categories in a certain way or otherwise the FCC will go after them.”

The FCC bestowed its largesse on a Maryland-based company called Social Solutions International to study the feasibility of the invasive procedure. In April 2013, Social Solutions responded, delineating exactly how the FCC’s minions would interview members of the news profession. Its report stated, “The purpose of these interviews is to ascertain the process by which stories are selected…” News organizations would have to explain their “station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs, and perceived responsiveness to under-served populations.”

To make matters even darker, the FCC wants to monitor newspapers, which are not in its jurisdiction. Last December, the four top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee targeted the FCC for scrutiny, saying, “The Commission has no business probing the news media’s editorial judgment and expertise, nor does it have any business in prescribing a set diet of ‘critical information.'”

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” says the First Amendment. For an Administration that mocks the Constitution at every turn, those words appear to have no meaning.

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