- 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.


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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.

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