The PJ Tatler

FCC Backtracks on Policing the News

The program to install monitors in America’s newsrooms has been suspended according to Ars Technica. But not killed dead, as it ought to be.

Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told staff to remove the offending questions, a commission statement today said. The statement noted that the FCC is required to “report to Congress every three years on the barriers that may prevent entrepreneurs and small business from competing in the media marketplace, and pursue policies to eliminate those barriers. To fulfill that obligation in a meaningful way, the FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities consulted with academic researchers in 2012 and selected a contractor to design a study which would inform the FCC’s report to Congress.”

“However, in the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate,” the statement continued. “Chairman Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required. Last week, Chairman Wheeler informed lawmakers that the Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters and would be modifying the draft study. Yesterday, the Chairman directed that those questions be removed entirely.”

So they removed the questions that raised everyone’s alarms. But the project itself is not dead. The FCC says that “the pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final.”

Which means that they’re going to wait a while, change a few words around, and try again from another angle.

The evident purpose, reinstating the Orwellian Fairness Doctrine, has just been delayed a bit.