A plan by the Federal Communications Commission to study how news organizations select stories has prompted about 10,000 people to sign a petition demanding: “no government monitors in newsrooms.”
That’s according to the American Center for Law and Justice, which announced the petition Wednesday and said it reached that number within the first two hours.
The FCC announced a Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs last year, saying that it wanted to understand the process of which stories are selected, station priorities, content production, populations served, perceived station bias and perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the “critical information needs” in a community, Fox News reported.
But Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, a conservative legal group, said he worries it could be used to intimidate certain news organizations into covering issues that government officials feel are important.
“This is an extremely troubling and dangerous development that represents the latest in an ongoing assault on the Constitution by the Obama administration,” Sekulow said in a statement. “We have seen a corrupt IRS unleashed on conservatives. We have seen an imperial president bypass Congress and change the law with executive orders.”
The FCC only has jurisdiction over the broadcast industry, not over cable news or print publications. Networks, local stations and most radio stations would be subject to evaluation.
“Now we see the heavy hand of the Obama administration poised to interfere with the First Amendment rights of journalists,” Sekulow said. “It’s clear that the Obama administration is only interested in utilizing intimidation tactics – at the expense of Americans and the Constitution. The federal government has no place attempting to control the media, using the unconstitutional actions of repressive regimes to squelch free speech.”
An FCC representative did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze.
The objectives for the research, released publicly on May 28, 2013, are to “collect data to inform: the access (or potential barriers) to [critical information needs] as identified by the FCC; the media that makes up media ecologies (i.e., what media is actually included in that ecology; ownership of that market; what specific type of content dominates those media ecologies; what is the flow of information within the ecology, etc); the use of and interaction between media that makes media ecologies (i.e., how do different layers of the ecology interact to provide for CINs; how do individuals of diverse neighborhoods/communities differ in terms of access to CINs); validate data collection tools/templates and protocols; demonstrate high internal validity and reliability of measured constructs.”
The Obama administration has already come under scrutiny for its treatment of the press.
The group Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 46th in the world for press freedom, citing the governments investigations into various newsrooms in national security cases.
“The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest,” the international journalists report stated.
“U.S. journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak,” the report continued. “It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a ‘shield law’ to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level.”
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