- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2014

It’s already been deemed a “scandal.” Journalists and broadcasters are chafing over news that the Federal Communications Commission had developed plans to monitor the nation’s newsrooms, as outlined in a federal initiative with this brusque title: “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs.” It is full of fancy-worded stuff like a “media market census,” a study of “community ecology,” and intentions to gauge if the “philosophy” of a news organization dovetails into the “critical information needs” of the local citizenry.

The news itself has drawn a wide cross-section of snarling press. Among the current headlines: “Is Obama trying to kill a free press?” (Fox News) “FCC looking to insert government officers to monitor newsrooms” (PJ Media), “Why would the FCC ask newsrooms about their story selection process?” (Reason), “FCC: No intention to muzzle the press” (The Hill), “Echoes of the IRS in the FCC snooping scandal” (National Review Online).

“Since when is a station’s philosophy or its inter-office disputes any of the federal government’s business? For that matter, how is the federal government qualified to determine what a citizen “needs” to know? Are citizens not qualified to make that determination themselves?” asks David French, senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice.

He is among the first to wonder if the FCC initiative is on par with an IRS focus on conservative tea party groups last year. Mr. French points out a few parallels, pondering the possibilities for his organization, as well as in a National Review op-ed.

“The IRS targeting scandal is of course multi-faceted, but one of its key elements was the use of comprehensive IRS questionnaires to determine everything from tea-party donor and member lists to the actions and activities of family members and even identifying ‘persons or entities with which you maintain a close relationship.’ In other words, the Obama administration IRS was abusing its regulatory authority to essentially discern the inner workings of an entire political and cultural movement,” Mr. French wrote.

“The Obama governing philosophy combines the regulatory state with an intolerance of dissent. Taken together, this means an extreme level of government intrusion into private activity,” he added.

“Even the concept of a study like this is enough to chill every journalist and every station which prides itself on journalistic independence,” says Mike Cavender, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association.

CAPITALIZING ON THE PATIENT-CENTRIC

Somebody’s going to make a little cash off the fact that Americans don’t understand Obamacare, its enrollment procedures or its greater societal implications. This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by the marketing and public relations crowd.

Here comes the “Future of Health Communications Summit,” priced at $175 a person in New York City next week, and sponsored by the Business Development Institute, a public relations group which also cited a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll revealing that 70 percent of consumers are confused about the Affordable Care Act.

“This knowledge gap presents a sterling opportunity for pharmaceutical firms, hospital groups, insurers, medical device companies and agencies to educate and inform their patients and employees,” the organizers say.

They have lined up speakers from Johns Hopkins Medicine, major PR firm Makovsky, pharmacutical giant Pfizer and the Public Health Association of New York, among others, all of them ready to “discuss opportunities for patient-centric communications.”

Maybe somebody at the White House should spring for a ticket and attend.

OBAMA’S THIRD AND FOURTH TERM

During her time as a 2012 presidential hopeful, Rep. Michele Bachmann held her own during 20 Republican candidate debates, despite frequent abuse by the mainstream media. As the Minnesota lawmaker prepares to leave office, she has issued a warning of sorts about another potential White House hopeful. And that would be Hillary Clinton, who she calls “the godmother of Obamacare” in a fair-minded interview with syndicated columnist Cal Thomas.

Astute point. Mrs. Clinton was talking about universal health care back in the 1990s, and could certainly carry forth the cause for President Obama in the future.

“Effectively, she would be Obama’s third and fourth term in office,” Mrs. Bachmann said, prompting Mr. Thomas to point out that such a notion might scare Democrats into voting for the Republican nominee.

Mrs. Bachmann has advice for the GOP nominee.

“Two things that need to be done: Remind people [Clinton] is seeking to become commander in chief, and how she has operated in the past with these types of responsibilities. She was in charge during the Benghazi debacle. If a person reads the Senate Intelligence report and the House Foreign Affairs report, it is damning for Hillary Clinton,” the lawmaker told Mr. Thomas.

A FATTER GOP WALLET

Here are plain facts about the Grand Old Party and its money. The Republican National Committee reports that it raised $7.8 million in January and currently has $9.8 million on hand, no debt and a history of grass-roots donations. Ninety-eight percent of them, in fact, were under $200 — with the average donation totaling $62.

Committee chairman Reince Preibus reports that the party is building up its data and digital resources with a certain prudent flair.

“We’re spending our money in a way that’s designed to help candidates up and down the ballot. We’re building a long-lasting infrastructure that will serve our party well in 2014 and into the future,” he says.

“This is going to be a good year for Republicans. We’re building relationships in communities where we haven’t been in too long, while Democrats are alienating voters by cheerleading policies that discourage work and kill jobs,” Mr. Priebus predicts.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: The Welcome Home, Richfield Hills, New York. Ten bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, 13,500 square feet. Built in 1918 byt noted architect James McKee; three-story Victorian, full fire alarm system, wraparound porch, portico, mulitple firplaces, original woodworking, staircases, exterior millwork and stone work. On one-half acre. Price: $277,000, from Cooperstownpropertyagency.com

POLL DU JOUR

20 percent of Americans say China is the “greatest enemy” of the U.S.

19 percent of Republicans, 23 percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats agree.

16 percent overall say North Korea is the greatest enemy.

16 percent of Republicans, 11 percent of independents and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

16 percent overall say Iran is the greatest enemy.

20 percent of Republicans, 16 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

9 percent overall cited Russia, 7 percent Iraq, 5 percent Afghanistan, 3 percent Syria and 2 percent “the United States itself”.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1,023 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 6-9 and released Thursday.

Have a good weekend; follow Jennifer Harper at Twitter.com/harperbulletin

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