FCC retreating from editorial-bias study?

posted at 12:41 pm on February 13, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier this week, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai raised the red flag over a study the agency planned to launch that would have “studied” the issue of editorial bias — even though the agency isn’t supposed to meddle in content decisions at all. The study would have surveyed newspapers, too, which don’t even fall under the FCC’s area of jurisdiction. After Pai blew the whistle on this effort, FCC chair Tom Wheeler may be retreating, reports Ad Week:

The Federal Communications Commission is quietly changing course on a controversial study after parts of the methodology were roundly criticized by GOP lawmakers and commissioner Ajit Pai for encroaching into editorial decisions and content at TV stations.

The Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs, which aimed to help the commission figure out how to lower entry barriers for minorities in broadcasting, may now be on hold. At the very least, the controversial sections of the study will be revisited under new chairman Tom Wheeler and incorporated into a new draft.

Regardless of the study’s intent, it’s hard to fathom why the FCC sent its minions into newsrooms of the stations it licenses and ask questions about how stations exercise their First Amendment right.

The vacillation from Wheeler on the “study” comes after accusations from House Republicans that Wheeler is trying to manipulate regulatory power to create a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0″ while bypassing Congress:

House Republicans made a similar accusation in December, claiming the FCC was working on a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.”

“Given the widespread calls for the commission to respect the First Amendment and stay out of the editorial decisions of reporters and broadcasters, we were shocked to see that the FCC is putting itself back in the business of attempting to control the political speech of journalists,” Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a letter to the FCC.

“It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.’ “

The FCC has no jurisdiction over editorial choices of news outlets, not even in broadcast media. Their authority is over the use of broadcast frequencies and equipment designed to utilize them. This “study” looks very much like a means to proclaim a crisis as an excuse to expand the agency’s jurisdiction, especially with the inclusion of newspapers as part of the study.

Editorial bias certainly exists, and we criticize it on a regular basis. That’s where the issue belongs — in the marketplace, not as a government-controlled command information economy. That threatens everything that the First Amendment promises, and puts the government nose squarely in the ability to freely speak and argue. If Tom Wheeler is that concerned about editorial bias, let him quit the FCC and open up his own media outlet to compete. Otherwise, as Michael Graham says (a little more colorfully than I do), editorial decisions at media outlets are none of his damned business, nor that of the executive branch of the federal government.


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These liberals feel disenfranchised because they only control 99.5 percent of the media.

portlandon on February 13, 2014 at 12:43 PM

“First they went after the Tea Party members, …”

PolAgnostic on February 13, 2014 at 12:44 PM

If you think editorial bias is bad now, just wait until the government starts regulating it.

No Truce With Kings on February 13, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Goebbels is disappointed.

Leftist fascist thugs are too.

Schadenfreude on February 13, 2014 at 12:46 PM

The FCC does not agree with Ed’s post. Ramifications forthwith.

GreenBlade on February 13, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Control freaks.

John the Libertarian on February 13, 2014 at 12:47 PM

If any staffers at the FCC were used to initiate this study, their positions should lose their appropriations. Their jobs are the very definition of waste if they are acting beyond their constitutional and statutory authority.

blammm on February 13, 2014 at 12:49 PM

If the government begins to regulate editorials, then it is no longer abiding by the Constitution, which means there are no “nice” options left to resist them.

RockinRickOwen on February 13, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Troll: There’s no fascism or abuses of power here, look at BOOSH’s record of EO’s and all of those ‘abuses of power’….

…none of which can be pointed to, but they exist, well, just because…

Athos on February 13, 2014 at 12:52 PM

If all you have is a big government, every problem looks like an excuse for a new government program.

Socratease on February 13, 2014 at 12:55 PM

I certainly trust these guys to follow the Constitution

Rio Linda Refugee on February 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Socratease on February 13, 2014 at 12:55 PM

When your only tool is a hammer….

Athos on February 13, 2014 at 1:02 PM

They are not retreating from anything. At best, they are pausing to see what the reasonings against them are going to be so they can formulate a rationalized defense..and then resume the march.

Mimzey on February 13, 2014 at 1:04 PM

This was a test balloon.

UnstChem on February 13, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Troll: There’s no fascism or abuses of power here, look at BOOSH’s record of EO’s and all of those ‘abuses of power’….

…none of which can be pointed to, but they exist, well, just because…

Athos on February 13, 2014 at 12:52 PM

We were having great entertainment over on the Turley thread, but we seem to have scared the new Troll off. It claimed that Bush abused his use of EOs, but then suddenly disappeared when challenged for specific examples of EOs that Bush was “abusive” in issuing.

Del Dolemonte on February 13, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Don’t worry, they’ll try again. And again. And again. Until they get the ‘right’ outcome.

Kinda like how Dems count election results. Repeatedly. Until it adds up ‘right.’

xNavigator on February 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM

“It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.’ “

Or what? Are they going to hold their collective breath?

antipc on February 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM

+1 portlandon

cmsinaz on February 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM

It was two rogue FCC agents out of the Cincinatti office that proposed this idea. They have since been reprimanded by way of promotion.

Left Coast Right Mind on February 13, 2014 at 1:21 PM

The Federal Communications Commission is quietly changing course on a controversial study after parts of the methodology were roundly criticized by GOP lawmakers and commissioner Ajit Pai for encroaching into editorial decisions and content at TV stations.

Does this mean the liberals aren’t concerned that President Cruz’s FCC won’t stomp on their 1st amendment liberties?

Rovin on February 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Editorial bias certainly exists, and we criticize it on a regular basis. That’s where the issue belongs — in the marketplace, not as a government-controlled command information economy.
=======================================

Biased,
Marxist Socialist Media alright!

canopfor on February 13, 2014 at 1:28 PM

Message already sent. You right wingers better tone down your editorials, be a shame if anything happened to them.

rbj on February 13, 2014 at 1:35 PM

FCC – Fiendish Commie Coalition. They got caught with their claws in the 1st Amendment cookie jar. This is just a smidgeon of a blip of what’s to come.

vnvet on February 13, 2014 at 1:40 PM

NPR edged out ABC and NBC for Leftist presstitute dominance but not without a fight.

viking01 on February 13, 2014 at 1:52 PM

I’m still waiting on the next proposed non-chilling regulation to emanate from this administration.

BKeyser on February 13, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Constant vigilance is required of any lefty. They simply cannot be trusted.

neyney on February 13, 2014 at 2:16 PM

It’s not really surprising, is it? The media has been Obama’s bitch for so long that he probably sees no problem in cuffing them a time or two to remind them who’s boss.

There Goes the Neighborhood on February 13, 2014 at 2:56 PM

From on high

“Stop it guys, this is an election year”

-O’bozo

WryTrvllr on February 13, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Can’t because suddenly the FCC realizes we have a 1st Amend.?

rennyangel2 on February 13, 2014 at 3:32 PM

The vacillation from Wheeler on the “study” comes after accusations from House Republicans that Wheeler is trying to manipulate regulatory power to create a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0″ while bypassing Congress:

…can you tell me of any department…that doesn’t by-pass Congress?

KOOLAID2 on February 13, 2014 at 4:52 PM