Federal Government Study of News Media Bringing Howls of Protest

WTVO/WQRF -- A proposed Federal Communications study is bringing howls of protest from First Amendment advocates, news media leaders and Congressional Republicans including Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) IL-16.  Kinzinger and several other Congressmen signed a letter sent to the FCC protesting the study (letter attached above).

The research would reportedly send federal researchers into television, radio, newspaper and web media newsrooms.  They would then observe and ask questions about the how stories are selected and analyze how stations cover 'critical information needs.' 

The idea of the federal government monitoring newsrooms has raised the specter by some of government influence and control of news content.  Mike Cavender, Executive Director of the Radio and Television Digital News Association, asks "Why does the FCC need this information and what possible use can it be to the regulatory body that impacts every broadcast station in this country? We think it’s clearly an overreach by the Commission."

But it's not just broadcasters.  While broadcasters are regulated by the FCC because they use publicly owned airwaves to transmit news material -- newspapers, web media and cable news outlets are not.  That has some are wondering what business the FCC has monitoring them since they are all independent of any FCC regulation.

A letter sent to the FCC signed by Rep. Kinzinger states that the study intends to "ascertain the process by which stories are selected ... , perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs (critical information needs), and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."  They say such an effort "shows a startling disregard for not only the bedrock constitutional principles that prevent government intrusion into the press and other news media .."

Cavendar does note that the FCC has issued a statement saying the agency “has no intention of interfering in the coverage and editorial choices that journalists make.”  If true, however, he wonders openly why the FCC needs to spend a proposed $900,000 taxpayers dollars to conduct the study at all.

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