Big Brother is not just watching you, but the folks who bring the news into your living room, as well.
If President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has its way, the federal government will soon be monitoring what goes on in newsrooms around the nation. The FCC controls the broadcasting licenses of all television and radio media outlets.
The idea may sound far-fetched, but an FCC Commissioner, Ajit Pai, is sounding the alarm and hoping that the commission changes its mind. The FCC is directed by five commissioners, of which three currently are Democrat and two Republican. Pai is Republican.
Pai said the initiative could be used by the government to “pressure media organizations into covering certain stories.” Pai wrote about the issue in The Wall Street Journal:
Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs, or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.
The stated purpose of the CIN is to unearth information from radio and television broadcasters about the “process by which stories are selected and how often stations cover critical information needs,” according to the FCC. The federal government agency will also be reviewing “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved” populations.
It gets worse, though. Pai said the FCC has “selected eight categories of ‘critical information’ such as the ‘environment’ and ‘economic opportunities,’ that it believes local newscasters should cover.”
“It plans to ask station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters to tell the government about their ‘news philosophy’ and how the station ensures that the community gets critical information,” Pai wrote.
And, Pai said, the FCC plans to “wade into office politics.”
“One question for reporters is: ‘Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?’ Follow-up questions ask for specifics about how editorial discretion is exercised, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions,” Pai wrote.
The FCC is also now attempting to expand its regulatory bounds to include newspapers, according to the American Center for Law and Justice. Print media has never been overseen by the Federal Communications Commission.
The government monitoring program, if initiated as written, stomps on constitutionally protected freedom of the press and free speech rights. As Thomas Jefferson once aptly stated, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
Meanwhile, the US now ranks 46th in the world for freedom of the press. The Reporters Without Borders organization deemed the 13-point rankings drop one of the most “significant declines in freedom of the press in the world.” If the FCC government monitoring of newsrooms program test goes nationwide, America no doubt will fall further.
“The ranking of some countries has … been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed,” the report said. “This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies.”