FCC investigating editorial choices and bias in broadcasters — and newspapers

posted at 2:41 pm on February 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

“Everyone talks about the weather,” Mark Twain (apocryphally) observed, “but nobody does anything about it.” To some extent, the same is true about editorial bias. People have complained about bias in news coverage for decades, but only recently have the barriers to market entry been so low as to allow critics to build their own platforms to do anything about it. That frustration with editorial bias led in large part to the explosion of the blogosphere, which forced news outlets to deal substantively with the criticisms they created with their editorial biases.

That is the free-market approach. Should there be a regulatory approach to editorial bias — or is that just an opportunity for government-controlled news? FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai warns that his agency has begun exploring those ends:

But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.

Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.

The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

Pai also warns that this will be explicitly political, both in substance and in process:

The FCC also wants to wade into office politics. One question for reporters is: “Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?” Follow-up questions ask for specifics about how editorial discretion is exercised, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions.

Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntary—in theory. Unlike the opinion surveys that Americans see on a daily basis and either answer or not, as they wish, the FCC’s queries may be hard for the broadcasters to ignore. They would be out of business without an FCC license, which must be renewed every eight years.

First, let’s muse on that question for a moment. Has there ever been a reporter who hasn’t had a story pitch rejected by his editors? Heck, I’ve even had that experience. Even while acknowledging the reality and problem of political biases, editors and management exist to marshal finite resources for the best possible use. This is basically begging the question of perceived bias and the need for intervention by taking a universal experience and making it into something suspicious, if not sinister.

This is a problem, though, that is explicitly tied to the First Amendment, and should be outside of the FCC’s purview. The agency exists to regulate the use of broadcast frequencies to keep those bands viable for commercial (and amateur) use, and not to impose mandates for the substance of the broadcasts. News outlets are free to adopt whatever points of view they like without fear of government intervention. If people don’t like those outlets, they can give their business to others in a free-market environment.

The most dysfunctional of these markets is the city newspaper business, where one daily usually dominates if not occupies the entire market. The FCC doesn’t regulate newspapers … at least not yet, but the study includes newspapers for some reason anyway. Why would the FCC be looking outside of its mandate like that?

The FCC claims that its political inquisitiveness is merely an attempt to quantify the barriers to market for entrepreneurs, but Pai rejects that. Editorial bias is not in any shape or form a barrier to market entry. This is one effort to which Congress should demand an immediate end.


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Hey, let’s push for this…. to start the day the next Republican is elected president. I would like to use the governmental club in favor of my side for a change.

Right liberals? Isn’t that how this is supposed to work?

Vanceone on February 11, 2014 at 2:44 PM

This is one effort to which Congress should demand an immediate end

.
AHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!

Congress?!?

AHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!

You meant that as satire, correct?

PolAgnostic on February 11, 2014 at 2:44 PM

This is an attempt to quash the remaining conservative media.

Doomberg on February 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Who the hel! decides what “critical information needs” are? I don’t like the old MSM dinosaurs but I sure as heck don’t want big brother saying what the media should and shouldn’t talk about.

MoreLiberty on February 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

FSA — Fascist States of America.

rbj on February 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

It’s all about controlling the narrative, nothing more, nothing less.

Gothguy on February 11, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Should there be a regulatory approach to editorial bias — or is that just an opportunity for government-controlled news?

I’ll get back to you on that Ed, after I tweet Mika to ask Valorie Jarret about it.

Flora Duh on February 11, 2014 at 2:46 PM

We all know how this will turn out. They will zero in on FOX News and only FOX News, the others won’t be touched. Perhaps they will take baby steps then, near election time, FOX will get the full government censorship treatment.

mike3121 on February 11, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Just have all media outlets sign a declaration.

Hope and Change, yessir.

Bishop on February 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Obama is really pushing to shut down Fox News, isn’t he?

malclave on February 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

“Not Even a Smidgen of Corruption…”

An make sure it is printed that way…..

Or else…

Electrongod on February 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Why would the FCC be looking outside of its mandate like that?

“The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses.” ~ Vladimir Lenin

Flora Duh on February 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Just have all media outlets sign a declaration.

Hope and Change, yessir.

Bishop on February 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

That’s called a Pledge…

:)

Electrongod on February 11, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Bwahahahahahahaha…. this message is approved by your gubRmint

roflmmfao

donabernathy on February 11, 2014 at 2:53 PM

FSA — Fascist States of America.

rbj on February 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

The American Socialist Superstate – The A.S.S.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on February 11, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Well sure. Hitler and Stalin did it. So why wouldn’t our Government do it?

oldroy on February 11, 2014 at 2:54 PM

That’s creepier than a modern-day liberal’s opinion of a Shirley Temple video.

Knott Buyinit on February 11, 2014 at 2:55 PM

I’m sure that the FCC, unlike the IRS, won’t unfairly target conservatives.

besser tot als rot on February 11, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Overt fascism, right? I mean, you can’t even wave this away as a misunderstanding.

Vanceone on February 11, 2014 at 2:59 PM

In Soviet America, the news watch you!

22044 on February 11, 2014 at 2:59 PM

And all the station owners and newspaper owners will have to fill out a form under penalty of perjury….

Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntary—in theory. Unlike the opinion surveys that Americans see on a daily basis and either answer or not, as they wish, the FCC’s queries may be hard for the broadcasters to ignore. They would be out of business without an FCC license, which must be renewed every eight years.

Wethal on February 11, 2014 at 3:00 PM

The Treasury Department has added a requirement that each media outlet sign an OATH OF AFFIRMATION that it has not aired anything contrary to the agenda of the Administration in the past year.

“Justice” Roberts enthusiastically declares it a TAX.

ConstantineXI on February 11, 2014 at 3:01 PM

THE BORG: You “will” be assimilated.

TarheelBen on February 11, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Rosebud.

celtic warrior on February 11, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Who the hel! decides what “critical information needs” are? I don’t like the old MSM dinosaurs but I sure as heck don’t want big brother saying what the media should and shouldn’t talk about.

MoreLiberty on February 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

“Critical information”= Airing ALL of Obama’s speeches (including reruns in the overnight hours), reporting Obama’s “insights” into everything from American Idol to the Washington Redskins, and NOT airing any “counter revolutionary reactionaries”.

ConstantineXI on February 11, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Utopia brought to you by your GubRmint…

http://cdn.frontpagemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/cuba-hospital.jpg

Barry & Pals…Economic Plan : Join the unemployed welfare class and explore new opportunities in degradation.

roflmmfao

donabernathy on February 11, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Dictate? of course not…

BUT

Since we have a Consumer Product Safety Commision, an FDA, an EPA, a NHTSA, a CDC, and a center for science in the public interst, would it not fall on at least one of these agencies to keep the public from wallowing in the mire that has become liberal media?

It’s can’t be healthy swimming in so much Bullshiite.

It could be totally bipartisan, and only descriptive. (for 1 or 2 days)

WryTrvllr on February 11, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Obama is really pushing to shut down Fox News, isn’t he?

malclave on February 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Its Mark Levin, Breightbart, and Drudge that keep this very lawless, very dangerous administration awake at night.

onomo on February 11, 2014 at 3:05 PM

mike3121 on February 11, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Of course. According to the elite masterminds who rule over us, Fox News is the “only” biased news source. Just ask Generalissimo Obama.

TarheelBen on February 11, 2014 at 3:06 PM

The FCC will find bias at Fox News and on talk radio and find no bias at MSNBC, CNN, and the New York Times. This is why the government should not be involved. Last time I checked we still have a First Amendment, that is until Obama abolishes it via executive order.

mattmillburn on February 11, 2014 at 3:06 PM

How does the FCC plan to dig up all that information? First, the agency selected eight categories of “critical information” such as the “environment” and “economic opportunities,” that it believes local newscasters should cover.

Translation: more stories on global warming and affirmative action.

A federal agency run by lefties is deciding what the citizens’ “critical needs” are as far as information goes, and if the agency doesn’t think it is critical, well then don’t cover it.

Wethal on February 11, 2014 at 3:07 PM

“Pravda” inches closer to the USA.

sadatoni on February 11, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Coming to a station near you, soon: a MINITRUE representative.

oldsquid on February 11, 2014 at 3:09 PM

“Pravda” inches closer to the USA.

sadatoni on February 11, 2014 at 3:08 PM

I’m afraid it has already been here for a while.

TarheelBen on February 11, 2014 at 3:09 PM

You know, one of the rare times the MSM told Obama to go to Hades was when the entire kerfluffle about wiretapping and forcing some reporter to divulge secrets. They did stand up to him then… not for long, mind you, but they did.

I think they might again.

Vanceone on February 11, 2014 at 3:11 PM

NBC will comply….
will be replacing the Peacock image…

With a d|ckhead image…

You know the one..

where Obama has his head tilted up 20 degrees
Showing his nostril hairs…frowning..

And maybe some kids singing in the background…..

Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm, Barack Hussein Obama….

Electrongod on February 11, 2014 at 3:13 PM

This is nothing but the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” in new clothing, but with more teeth.

The libs despise the free press – and always have.

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on February 11, 2014 at 3:16 PM

We all will be made to care…

22044 on February 11, 2014 at 3:17 PM

This is nothing but the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” in new clothing, but with more teeth.

The libs despise the free press – and always have.

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on February 11, 2014 at 3:16 PM

That is the first thing I thought of too. It is the Obama administration circumventing lawmakers.

Furthermore, you can bet it won’t be stations like MSNBC who get targeted. It will be a Fox hunt.

melle1228 on February 11, 2014 at 3:19 PM

CBS, MSNBC and CNN?

Are you kidding?

You really should change the banner to show the logos for FoxNews, Drudge and Salem Radio.

SwampYankee on February 11, 2014 at 3:20 PM

The FCC is doing this against the wishes of the FCC? Then who is driving this bus?

KCB on February 11, 2014 at 3:20 PM

Sould be–The FCC is doing this against the wishes of the FCC Commisioner? Then who is driving this bus?

KCB on February 11, 2014 at 3:20 PM

KCB on February 11, 2014 at 3:20 PM

“The press is our chief ideological weapon.” ~ Nikita Khrushchev

Flora Duh on February 11, 2014 at 3:20 PM

Rosebud.

celtic warrior on February 11, 2014 at 3:04 PM

That was good , really good .

Lucano on February 11, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Waitaminnit! This guy is FCC Commissioner and he’s ratting out his own department, critically? Give the man a medal!

Surellin on February 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Next in line,Hollywood.No more action or love stories.

docflash on February 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM

By all means, let there be a free market. But stop funding NPR & PBS. Death to Big Bird!

reddevil on February 11, 2014 at 3:27 PM

The First Amendment? To that same Constitution guaranteeing that all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states and/or the people? The same document that guarantees a right to resist generalized searches, or any searches without a warrant? The one that says the legislature writes laws, and that the House originates tax laws?

That document and the glorious form of government it represents is being murdered while we watch by the totalitarian fascists in the progressive movement, aided and abetted by the very same propaganda organs the FCC is now proposing to initiate thought-control over.

MTF on February 11, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Who was the jurnolist who had the illegal gun magazine on his show?:

A Washington, D.C. man is facing a large fine and possible jail time after he was arrested for having an inoperable shotgun shell in his home. The shell was a souvenir that Mark Witaschek decided to keep from a hunting trip years earlier.

http://foxnewsinsider.com/2014/02/11/dc-man-set-hearing-after-cops-raid-turned-one-shotgun-shell

We all will be made to care…

22044 on February 11, 2014 at 3:17 PM

davidk on February 11, 2014 at 3:31 PM

So when will the FCC be investigating MSNBC?

GarandFan on February 11, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Who was the jurnolist who had the illegal gun magazine on his show?:

davidk on February 11, 2014 at 3:31 PM

David Gregory on MTP, I believe

22044 on February 11, 2014 at 3:36 PM

It seems it will be Pravda having the last laugh as the Mainstream Media in America trades place with the old Soviet Union Pravda.

oscarwilde on February 11, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Flora Duh ???
The FCC has always been in the viewpoint censorship. But previously in the other direction. Actually mandating unbiased honest competent reporting of the news as a “community service”, and a key condition of their broadcast license.
A bit of history. In the early radio broadcast days, the FCC determined that there were so few broadcast news stations that unlike newspapers of the day (which were openly partisan) Broadcast stations would be required to offer community service (this is where the Sunday am sermons came from) as a condition of their being allowed a broadcast license at all. It worked so well in allowing the full range of advertisers that all the newspapers adopted it (or at least pretended to do so). And the progressives placed taking over those broadcasters at the very top of their lists even above education. And while coverage has gradually blatantly skewed left, the premise of fair unbiased news as part of the community service requirement of the license has not ever been changed.
As others have commented, we don’t want government involved in determining what can be covered, or how those stories can be covered. That way leads to dark things, very dark things.

My solution is viewpoint neutral. Since the HSN and others have gotten more expensive licenses that come without community service requirements (effectively forgoing the community service discount), discontinue the community service license discount entirely or at least disallow ALL news coverage as counting as community service. If the networks want news, blatantly biased or otherwise, let them do so. But make it clear that the rabid bias means it is no longer a community service to shave, twist, distort or even lie about the news to the served community, and so few “news” organizations do an honest job, that none can be trusted to do the aforementioned honest reporting job.

One of the undervalued bits of the situation is the network news has extorted much more funding from network corporate (beyond the ad/viewership value) by way of that community service requirement. If they have to provide value on their own to the viewers, and can’t extort $ from the network by threatening the loss of the community service requirement discount….
….some network is going to take them up on that threat and cut expenditures or even cut news entirely. And it won’t be a censorship/first amendment issue at all.

jhnone on February 11, 2014 at 3:37 PM


That’s creepier than a modern-day liberal’s opinion of a Shirley Temple video.

Knott Buyinit on February

I see what you did there…nice move!

Gothguy on February 11, 2014 at 3:41 PM

This makes perfect sense. After all, the government is unbiased, so of course it should be in charge of making sure everyone else is, too.

brentspolemics on February 11, 2014 at 3:44 PM

As others have commented, we don’t want government involved in determining what can be covered, or how those stories can be covered. That way leads to dark things, very dark things.

jhnone on February 11, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Precisely the reason for the quotes I posted. To show how the media – and government agencies – have begun to parallel “very dark” periods of history.

Flora Duh on February 11, 2014 at 3:47 PM

So a test program in Columbia, SC? Why not Boston, Miami, NYC or Chicago?

You can be sure when it’s time to study cable channels it will be Fox News and Fox News.

HumpBot Salvation on February 11, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Get this freaking government out of our lives before it’s too late.

rplat on February 11, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Venezuela… Phase 2

Skywise on February 11, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Venezuela… Phase 2

Skywise on February 11, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Yep, I’m stocking up on toilet paper and a few other essentials.

HumpBot Salvation on February 11, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Conservatives are an underserved population on most broadcast outlets. Wonder if they’ll tackle that.
Yeah. Right. Sure. When Satan’s throwing snowballs in his back yard.

either orr on February 11, 2014 at 4:10 PM

” the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run”

Hurts Republicans/Conservatives RUN IT!

Hurts Democrats/Liberals BURY IT!

There, just saved everyone a lot of time and money.

LouisianaLightning on February 11, 2014 at 4:15 PM

I’m sure they will look into all the “newspeople” who have family working somewhere in the obama administration to see if there is any bias there. Right?

HumpBot Salvation on February 11, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Which Obama donor and chief supporter is the head of the FCC?

They wouldn’t attempt an investigation into editorial bias in Tee-Vee if they didn’t know what the result of such an investigation was before it started.

dockywocky on February 11, 2014 at 4:39 PM

How much more do we take?

Capt Blasto on February 11, 2014 at 4:45 PM

If you like your news, you can keep your news…

trigon on February 11, 2014 at 4:55 PM

The Fairness Doctrine by the administrative state…

ojfltx on February 11, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Critical Information Needs

If it’s so critical, then I suppose the next step is to force the rest of the population to watch/listen/read the reports.

CJ on February 11, 2014 at 5:00 PM

How are the people not up in arms constantly?? How are the cities not burning? I can’t believe the crap the government gets away with with hardly a peep from the electorate. They deserve what they get.

Annielou on February 11, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Check out Robert McChesney and his far left group Free Press, are they still inside the FCC? Is Free Press supported by soros groups? This fits the public agenda of Free Press, they have not been shy. They said Capitalism must be destroyed brick by brick, guess that includes free speech and free press. vote. Only way FOX and blogs like Hot Air survive is if they start to disclose the real attacks.

At least de Blasio is open with his marxism.. bring the light. Watch graffiti tags start to grow in NYC.

dwall on February 11, 2014 at 5:37 PM

I wonder if anyone can find out if the head cheese at the FCC was a White House visitor shortly before announcing this plan, and if so, how often did he or she visit the White House before.

RockinRickOwen on February 11, 2014 at 5:46 PM

Can’t have these ignorant cretins of the press criticizing Dear Leader.

Another Drew on February 11, 2014 at 5:57 PM

This is one of the great differences between right and left. The right acknowledges the harm that bias does to reporting, knows the only thing worse would be government sticking its thumb in to try and balance the scales and recognizes that with time the free market will correct the problem. The left refuse to see the bias let alone the harm, believes that government regulations is the answer to just about any problem and ignores the reality that the longer the free market is thwarted from making corrections the larger the seismic shift will be when the corrections are made.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that we need to starve the beast.

yetanotherjohn on February 11, 2014 at 5:58 PM

I loved this caption under the photo:
Should the government dictate coverage?

Perfect question and the answer is a resounding YES!
King Putt has the Presstitutes sniffing his azz each and every day.
The gobble up his idiotic reguritations one after the other.
Explaining away the inexplicable. The crap he spews is so resoundingly stupid only a moron could grasp it.
We witness the Manure Spreading Media time after time Pledging their fealty to King Putt.
And Obowmao has become THE PUPPET MASTER.
Does ANYONE doubt that Prezzie Choombro gets complete data dumps from the NSA on a weekly basis about his ‘enemies’?
Written LAWS are for The Little People.

Missilengr on February 11, 2014 at 6:02 PM

In Soviet America, the news watch you!
22044 on February 11, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Thread Winner.

Missilengr on February 11, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Not too much to say…the “intelligentsia” is being allowed to channel their (not-so) inner fascist and too many people either don’t care or see politics in terms of a game in which as long as their team is winning, they don’t care about the rules.

One nice thing about being a believing Catholic is that my view of humans as tainted by original sin gets confirmed every day.

philosoph0123 on February 11, 2014 at 6:17 PM

The IRS, Treasury, NSA, and all the other agencies are showing us what is coming.

This is a huge power grab and we are seeing the signs of a coming power grab at the top.

More signs are coming.

KirknBurker on February 11, 2014 at 6:48 PM

“With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run.”

I despise this FASCIST administration.

locomotivebreath1901 on February 11, 2014 at 6:48 PM

How are the people not up in arms constantly?? How are the cities not burning? I can’t believe the crap the government gets away with with hardly a peep from the electorate. They deserve what they get.

Annielou on February 11, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Every movement begins with a vision in the mind of the prospective leader.

Beck? Chickened out.

Sarah? Chickened out.

Rand? Jury is still out.

Until a firebrand stands up against the government and leads the march on DC, the Left/Dems/Executive Branch Axis will gradually move towards ….endgame.

And then it will be too late.

KirknBurker on February 11, 2014 at 6:52 PM

NBC will comply….
will be replacing the Peacock image…

With a d|ckhead image…

You know the one..

where Obama has his head tilted up 20 degrees
Showing his nostril hairs…frowning..

And maybe some kids singing in the background…..

Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm, Barack Hussein Obama….

Electrongod on February 11, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Can’t wait for the t-shirt. Will come in handy when we queue for food and medical services
In the near future/

No Time Clock on February 11, 2014 at 7:03 PM

I have seen the future, and it’s….see above

vnvet on February 11, 2014 at 9:10 PM