The Federal Communications Commission says a controversial study of the nation's newsrooms is being reworked, but House Republicans aren't taking any chances.
The FCC continues to take heat from critics over the proposed Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN), and now a key Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee is vowing to pursue legislative solutions to take the study off the books.
“The very existence of this CIN study is an affront to the First Amendment and should have never been proposed in the first place,” said Rep. Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who chairs the panel's communications and technology subcommittee. “As someone with a journalism degree, I was alarmed from the moment I saw it.”
GOP lawmakers wrote FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in December to urge him to reconsider the study, which in its initially would have sent researchers into newsrooms across the country to ask them questions about editorial decisions. Critics said that the probe could have the effect of intimidating journalists and editors.
The agency retreated again on Friday, shelving the original proposal and saying any future survey on media diversity and ownership would not interview "media owners, news directors or reporters."
But Mr. Walden said the "small tweaks" offered by the FCC were not enough.
"The study should be eradicated completely,” he said, adding the committee plans a hearing on the entire incident.
The FCC maintains control over station licenses, and critics have argued that the data collected in the study could be used by the agency to revoke licenses for stations whose content is too critical of the government.
Mr. Walden and other Republican members of Congress have asserted that the administration could use the CIN study to revive the “Fairness Doctrine,” a law that required TV and radio broadcaster to give equal on-air time to both sides of a story or issue.
“It took nearly 25 years to get the Fairness Doctrine off the books once it had been ‘eliminated’ in 1987, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure this study or any other effort by the government to control the output of America’s newsrooms never sees the light of day,” Mr. Walden added.
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