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FCC May Monitor Editorial Decisions at TV Stations

FCC May Monitor Editorial Decisions at TV Stations

Newspeak is the fictional language in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime, such as freedom or self-expression, and if the FCC has their way, they may be on the cusp of implementing such restrictions on US news organizations if there isn’t swift movement to stop it.

The FCC seems to be of the opinion that network news in the US has become so biased and influenced by special interests and corporations that government oversight and regulation are required to ensure equal access for all. And for this reason, according to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, a survey is being implemented to ascertain how editorial decisions are made in the news room. The plan is to implement the survey in a network affiliate in South Carolina today, but it seems it’s been stalled most likely because of self proclaimed whistle blower and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai who gave interviews yesterday detailing the study and why it’s a real threat to First Amendment rights and freedom of the press.

The Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN) intends to track viewers access to “critical information” in six local markets, along with any negative impact from “barriers to entry” facing news producers in those markets. The commission chose Columbia as the test market in November because of its medium size, racial and ethnic diversity, and the nearby journalism school at the University of South Carolina.

Parts of the study would involve taking a census of newspaper, radio, broadcast, and web coverage in a given market, along with surveying and interviewing local residents about their “critical information needs.” The FCC doesn’t have any regulatory powers in regards to newspapers, so it’s unclear as to why they are part of the study, but there are many aspects to this study which are unclear. Case in point, the study calls for the FCC to interview management and staff at stations in order to find out how stories are selected, station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.  If they take that information back to the FCC and new regulations are implemented based on that information, then we can see the beginning of the end of the First Amendment in regards to free press.

Just some of the questions which will be directed to station managers include,“What is the news philosophy of the station?” and “How much does community input influence news coverage decisions?”  FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to the growing furor Thursday by ordering the removal of questions about news philosophy and editorial judgment and stated the commission had “no intention of regulating political or other speech.”

Currently, it’s been the GOP and news organizations with right wing leanings, (FOX News being the leader) who are covering the issue, but if one considers the ramifications of having government oversight on news agencies, it’s clear how this could transcend into an Orwellian nightmare, no matter how well intended it may be.

You can read the entire study yourself here:  http://transition.fcc.gov/bureaus/ocbo/FCC_Final_Research_Design_6_markets.pdf

You can also read FCC Commisionar Ajit Pai’s op-ed piece in TWSJ here: online.wsj.com/news

If you’re attending NAB 2014, you can see FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai as he and his fellow commissioners will be featured in the session “Inside the Beltway Style” on Tuesday, April 8 at 2:30 p.m. during the 2014 NAB Show in Las Vegas.  As previously announced, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will address the NAB Show on Tuesday, April 8 at 9:00 a.m.  Should be a barn burner!

Do you think government oversight of news agencies is necessary, or do you see this as a violation of our first amendment rights?  Sound off in the comments section below.

 

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