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article imageFCC newsroom survey suspended

By Karen Graham     Feb 24, 2014 in Politics
The Federal Communications Commission has backed down in its attempt at surveying radio and television stations over their newsroom's editorial practices. Called the Critical Information Needs (CIN) study, a pilot test was to have started this spring.
There were many critics of the study, citing it as unconstitutional and an attempt at reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine was introduced by the FCC in 1949, and required holders of FCC broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced.
The primary objective of the Fairness Doctrine was to ensure the public was informed about controversial views, and was also allowed to hear contrasting views and opinions on the issue. The doctrine was eliminated in 1987, and in August 2011 the FCC formally removed all language pertaining to the doctrine.
But the FCC's action in wanting to conduct a survey on editorial practices in today's newsrooms may have been unconstitutional in its methodology because it was allegedly opening a way to allow the government to push for more ownership of radio and television stations by minorities and women.
A strong proponent of the survey is FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, an Obama appointee, and daughter of House Democrat James Clyburn, who has been a powerful and strong advocate of minority ownership in the media. She has pointed out that in order to make policies giving minorities the right to ownership of media outlets, more information was needed to support their contention, proving diverse ownership would be better than what we have today.
Clyburn furthers her case by saying if the study were to show the "critical needs" of minorities and women are not being met, then it would make a case for the government to step in and enact policies that would ensure more radio and television stations were owned by minorities and women.
As acting Chairwoman, Mignon Clyburn spoke at the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters conference. Clyburn said, "The FCC needs better data 'hard and fast' to create policy that would increase the number of minority-owned broadcast stations," wrote the trade publication Communications Daily last October.
The article went on: "Clyburn…briefed attendees on several proposals at the FCC and in Congress that might address the difficulties of minority broadcasters, but she said the FCC's collection of data is a prerequisite for changes. A complete picture of the media landscape is necessary to entertain...any major policy adjustment in the short term, she said."
The whole story was brought to the publics attention in a Wall Street Journal column last week by Ajit Pai, one of two Republicans on the five-person commission. "This has never been put to an FCC vote, it was just announced. I've never had any input into the process," Pai wrote.
The FCC awarded a contract to a Maryland company called Social Solutions International. In April 2013. Expanding on what the survey is all about, Social Solutions explained, "The purpose of these interviews is to ascertain the process by which stories are selected. news organizations would be evaluated for station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs, and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
Opponents of the administration's involvement in an FCC survey to find out what and how much journalistic content is biased, or meant to pin-point a particular segment of the population, are adamant in their belief this is an infringement of the First Amendment's right to free speech and a free press. This is the issue that has everyone in an uproar.
More about Fcc, Survey, minority content, First amendment, freedom of speech
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