Is Obama Meddling in Press Freedoms?

A Wall Street Journal op-ed written by a member of the Federal Communications Commission expressing his concern over the FCC’s plan to visit newsrooms to ask questions about reporting procedures has prompted outrage – mainly from the rightwing media – this past week.

In his article, Ajit Pai, a commissioner at the FCC, discussed the upcoming “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs.” Headed by the Obama administration, the FCC planned to drop by hundreds of news organizations to ask questions about what they report about and why. He worried that the leading and focused questions that have been prepared would pressure outlets into reporting specific stories and compromise the freedom of the press.

Specifically, the FCC would examine the new organizations’ coverage of eight subjects it deemed “critical information,” including politics, the environment, the economy and public health. Some questions seem especially probing: “Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your [viewers, listeners or readers] that was rejected by management? What was the reason given for the decision?”

The negative press has been enough for Tom Wheeler, head of the FCC, to release a statement on the matter: “The commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters by way of this research design, any resulting study, or through any other means.” He added that the process will be reviewed and amended. Presently, it appears that the FCC will move forward with dropping by newsrooms for interviews, but the survey will no longer contain questions about their philosophies on reporting.

In truth, the survey in itself is not problematic. The corporate-owned media has distorted journalism and should be studied accordingly. Who wouldn’t like to know what’s going on behind the scenes at America’s biggest newsrooms? Who wouldn’t like to know why nonessential stories are getting airtime over issues that actually matter?

The real problem is the group that is asking the questions. Whether or not the FCC ever intended to influence the way newsrooms reported with this survey, the intrusion certainly poses a conflict of interest. We have a free press to help keep our government in check, not vice versa.

While this research is important, it needs to be conducted by independent media watchdog groups. Moreover, though I personally agree with the sorts of things that the FCC has defined as “critical information,” I reject the idea that a government agency is getting to write these definitions.

Even if the FCC is better intentioned than the conservative media has given it credit for, it still needs to back off of newsrooms even more. The mainstream media may be somewhat of a mess, but government intrusions like this survey will probably only further compromise press freedoms moving forward rather than fixing anything.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven7 months ago

thanks for the article.

Deborah W.
Deborah W.1 years ago

Government has no business ruling over free press, healthcare or many other areas they stick their collective nose in . Presented as supreme beings passing judgement for We The People and a "greater good" ... while in reality pushing to further Big Brother's agenda of total control. Empirial oversight steadily replacing nation building freedoms.big time.

Could 2015 produce a wake-up call?

Sandi M.
Sandie M.2 years ago

Roberta G. You obviously didn't get what I was pointing out as to the innuendo - the misspelling used as a denigration tool. That is your problem, not mine..

"This is a public forum, and, as such, has everything to do with me...." Sorry to bruise your ego, but the comment was addressed to someone else, not you, and had nothing to do with you. Your attempt to make it about you is absurd. Your inability to understand is, again, your problem, not mine..

Roberta G.
Roberta G.2 years ago

Sandi...this is what you said...

"it is spelled with an H not a K - but I am used to seeing leftists resort to such denigration"


"besides - it had nothing to do with you."

This is a public forum, and, as such, has everything to do with me and all those who participate in it. How appropriate the topic is freedom of the press!

I rest my case. Goodnight.

Sandi M.
Sandie M.2 years ago

Roberta G, I didn't criticize anyone's spelling, I criticized the innuendo - besides - it had nothing to do with you.
As for "criticizing posters' political views " - it seems there is a whole lot of it here, and mostly from the left.

Val M.
Val M.2 years ago


Roberta G.
Roberta G.2 years ago

Well Sandi, I did make a statement about your views of the Affordable Care Act, but then I moved on to the subject of political bias by most commercial broadcasters.

Or are you so interested in criticizing posters' political views and spelling that you didn't notice?

And I did apologize for moving off topic.

Sandi M.
Sandie M.2 years ago

Don S., I only gave Obamacare as an example of leftist-socialist policy to Robert. Then, Mary B, commented on Obamacare, it was really stepped in by Roberta G, and then YOU invited more on it when you wrote:
"As for OBAMA CARE, if you've got a better idea, we'd like to hear about to. Additionally, OBAMA CARE is based on Gov. Romney's health care plan for his move state. Don and WE CAN! :-)) ",
to which I replied "Don, there is not enough space, and I lack the time to tell you what I would do to replace Obamacare." So, don't go pointing your finger at others, complaining about what the topic of the board is. .... :-))
So much for freedom of the press.....;-)
Let's see how much more people will dump on this and continue this ridiculousness.

Sandi M.
Sandie M.2 years ago

Roberta G - Good for you, believe what you want.

Sandi M.
Sandie M.2 years ago

Robert, I don't follow the Koch bros. I don't care what their ideology is.