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This is a story I was going to pass on initially, but the more I learned about it, the more troubling it became.
As has been in the news, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a government agency, was going to undertake something they called a "Multi-Market Study Of Critical Information Needs", in which they were going to send FCC researchers into newsrooms across the country to determine if news organizations were meeting the "critical needs" of the public. The FCC said the study was:
"merely an objective fact-finding mission. The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry."
That sounds innocent enough, even noble, but if that was the only purpose of the study, then why was the FCC was going to ask questions like the following to owners, managers, and staff of news organizations:
the list of questions to station owners, managers, or HR:
- What is the news philosophy of the station?
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you define critical information that the community needs?
- How do you ensure the community gets this critical information?
- How much does community input influence news coverage decisions?
- What are the demographics of the news management staff (HR)?
- What are the demographics of the on air staff (HR)?
- What are the demographics of the news production staff (HR)?
And here’s the list of questions to on-air staff:
- What is the news philosophy of the station?
- How much news does your station air every day?
- Who decides which stories are covered?
- How much influence do you have in deciding which stories to cover?
- Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers (viewers, listeners, readers) that was rejected by management?
- If so, can you give an example?
- What was the reason given for the decision?
I don't know why any of this is the business of the federal government, or how any of it pertains to eliminating barriers for business entry into the communications industry. We're supposed to have something called freedom of the press. I got a kick out of the response from Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. She read her answers to some of the FCC questions on-air. Mostly, her answers were all the same, "None of your business. Read the Constitution". Kudos to Greta.
The FCC's "Critical Needs" study was suspended (not canceled) after an FCC Commissioner named Ajit Pai blew the whistle on the study and objections arose. Kudos to Mr. Pai. I'm glad somebody at the FCC cares about the 1st Amendment.
But I still wasn't going to cover this story.
Then White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, was asked about the FCC study by a Fox News reporter at a press conference. Here's that Q&A:
Reporter: [This question] involves the FCC’s newsroom proposal -- something it calls a multimarket study of critical information needs, which involves interviewing people like us, our editors, our producers about how we choose what to put on the air, what’s important to us. Does the White House have a reaction to the FCC’s decision to study this? Are you in favor of it? Do you believe that the FCC should be interviewing people involved in this process?
MR. CARNEY: I think you’re slightly behind the news. The FCC is an independent agency, A, so you’d have to talk to them for details, but I’ve seen these reports and I understand the FCC Chairman has taken steps to address the concerns that have been expressed, including the ones that you just laid out. But for details, I’d urge you to talk to the FCC about their decisions.
Reporter: You don’t want to talk about the FCC’s --
MR. CARNEY: It’s an independent agency so we’re not going to weigh in on that, but I would note what the Chairman has said and the actions that he’s taken.
Carney then moved on to another reporter, and this is when I began to become more interested in this story. Specifically, I became interested when Carney professed to have no knowledge (as usual) and insisted twice that the FCC is an "independent agency". You see, while the FCC is allegedly an independent federal agency, what Carney didn't say is that the FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, was appointed by President Obama. What Carney didn't say is that Wheeler was a big Obama supporter prior to being selected as FCC Chairman. What Carney didn't say is that Wheeler was a campaign bundler for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the President. What Carney didn't say is that Wheeler was part of Obama's initial transition team after he was elected President. This begs the question - how "independent" can we expect him to be ?
So I did a little research.
I discovered that two universities were working with the FCC on the "Critical Needs" study:
The University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy, were tasked by the FCC with coming up with criteria for what information is “critical” for Americans to have. The FCC study would have covered newspapers, websites, radio and television, according to The Washington Post.
Guess to whom those two schools have major financial ties ?:
...the schools involved have strong ties to liberal billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and have gotten more than $1.8 million from since 2000...
Soros is well-known for funding liberal media and other liberal causes.
Are you beginning to get the picture ? We have a liberal President appointing a supporter and campaign bundler as FCC Chairman, and two universities with liberal journalism schools supported by George Soros are tasked with developing the criteria for what "critical" information Americans should have. This is what the President's mouthpiece, Mr. Carney, calls "independent", playing us for fools. Btw, the FCC whistelblower, Mr. Pai, who got this stopped for now, is a Republican. Kudos to him again.
This time, the liberals got caught, and Wheeler was forced to make this admission:
"in the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate. Chairman Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required."
Good. We must be vigilant of the political calculations of even the so-called "independent" FCC.
FCC Chairman Wheeler informed Congress that the FCC "has no intention of
regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters," but of course, they wouldn't HAVE to reimpose free-speech chilling regulations such as the Fairness Doctrine or some other Big Brother regulations to reach their desired political effect, the effect Soros and those liberal groups are hoping for - to criticize and deligitimize non-liberal speech. All they would have to do is dig up some dirt on right-wing/conservative media with their intrusive questions, then "accidentally" leak that information to the public, and it would be mission accomplished.
The federal government has no place interfering with the press.