The Federal Communications Commission closed a study on how newsrooms operate after journalists and lawmakers protested saying the FCC was violating First Amendment rights. This was a failed trial run for the Multi Market Study of Critical Information Needs, or CIN, which the FCC planned to conduct every three years for Congress.
The study included a survey that asked newsrooms how stories are selected and about the relationship journalists have with their management. The FCC said the object of the CIN was to learn if Americans were receiving necessary critical information from topics such as politics and the environment from various news media.
According to The Washington Post, “Among the questions the FCC proposed asking journalists: Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your (viewers, listeners or readers) that was rejected by management?’And: ‘What was the reason given for the decision?”
With viewers’ interests in mind, the intention of the CIN sounds like a good idea for the public, but at what cost?
In this study, the FCC, which only has the right to look over broadband media, would even question print media newsrooms. By allowing the FCC to enter newsrooms and interrogate journalists, the government is indirectly instilling fear in reporters. If Americans let similar surveys and studies continue, there is no way to know the ways the government could eventually control the press.
The United States is already not doing so well when it comes to freedom of the press. Earlier this year, the press freedom index from Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States number 32 under countries like Ghana and the United Kingdom. Reporters Without Borders says the index is based on how each country’s government treats freedom of the press.
For a country which prides itself of its First Amendment and freedom, the United States sometimes drops the ball and makes questionable decisions regarding freedom of the press. Closing CIN was the right choice. The FCC had no right to snoop around and get the scoop on what stories make it and which ones do not.
Only journalists, with the help of the general public, should be allowed to pick what stories to present every day. Next time, leave the investigating to the journalists and not the FCC.