The FCC has cooked up a plan to place “researchers” in U.S. newsrooms, supposedly to learn all about how editorial decisions are made. Any questions as to why the U.S. is falling in the free press rankings?
As if illegal seizures of Associated Press phone records and the shadowy tailing of the mother of a Fox News reporter weren’t menacing enough, the Obama administration is going out of its way to institute a new intrusive surveillance of the press, as if the press wasn’t supine enough.
Ajit Pai, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission, warned this week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that a plan to dispatch researchers into radio, television and even newspaper newsrooms called the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” is still going forward, despite the grave danger it presented to the First Amendment.
Pai warned that under the rationale of increasing minority representation in newsrooms, the FCC, which has the power to issue or not issue broadcasting licenses, would dispatch its “researchers” to newsrooms across America to seek their “voluntary” compliance about how news stories are decided, as well as “wade into office politics” looking for angry reporters whose story ideas were rejected as evidence of a shutout of minority views.
Pai questioned if such a study could really be voluntary, given FCC’s conflict of interest (and, he might have added, the Obama record of going after political opponents).
The origin of the idea is a recrudescence of the Fairness Doctrine, inoperative since 1987 or so, to provide equal time to leftist points of view in broadcasting and other media that otherwise wouldn’t have a willing audience in a free market.
It’s an idea so fraught with potential for abuse it ought to have news agencies screaming bloody murder. The very idea of Obama hipsters showing up in newsrooms, asking questions and judging if newspapers (over which they have no jurisdiction), radio and TV are sufficiently diverse is nothing short of thought control.
But the reaction from the National Association of Broadcasters was mealy-mouthed. The FCC “should reconsider” “qualitative” sections of its study, it wrote.
The FCC now says it will be “closely reviewing the proposed research design to determine if an alternative approach is merited,” as a result of Pai’s warning. Adweek actually reported that as a “retreat.”
It’s because of this don’t-rock-the-boat attitude that Reporters Without Borders said the U.S. had “one of the most significant declines” in press freedom in the world last year, dropping 13 places to a wretched 46th in its newly released global ranking. If the FCC has its way, it can drop even further.