The FCC's study of newsrooms, which has thankfully been scrapped, is a prime example of President Barack Obama's hostility to the news media. (Saul Loeb / AFP Photo)
Civil libertarians have long called on the government to stay out of our bedrooms. Well, I want the government to stay out of my newsroom.
The Federal Communications Commission hoped to march into television and radio stations ó and even newspaper offices, over which it has no jurisdiction ó to determine how editorial decisions are made. Its study would have implanted researchers in newsrooms to ask questions about why certain stories are covered and others arenít, and whether bias plays a role in making those calls.
The only correct answer is ďnone of your business.Ē The First Amendment builds a high wall between Americaís newsrooms and a government that would control them given the slightest opening.
And this study would have surely cracked open the door.
Fortunately, a backlash, primarily driven by conservative media outlets, forced the FCC to shelf the study while it says itís revising its approach.
House Republicans this week introduced a bill to ban this study and any others like it for good. Congress must do even more to preserve a free press. The Founders werenít concerned with how ideas and information are distributed; they simply wanted to assure the government didnít get between the press and the people.
There must be absolute clarity that the First Amendment extends fully across the information spectrum. All of the same protections granted to print journalists should apply to electronic media outlets.
The best way to assure that is to get rid of the FCC altogether. The agency is obsolete, created at a time when a process was needed to distribute a limited number of airwaves.
Today, thanks to cable, satellite and the Internet, there is no limit to electronic communication outlets, and no need for a government agency that could potentially use its licensing authority to shackle them.
One of the supposed goals of the study was to determine whether all communities are being served by news coverage. Itís absurd to think that there are any information deserts in this country. The information industry is vigorous and ubiquitous, and has more than adequately responded to market demand.
This seems to be an attempt by the FCC to reassert itself as the arbiter of media fairness, an inappropriate role that was tossed out with the scrapping of the Fairness Doctrine in 1989.
It would be chilling to have the Obama administrationís FCC deciding whether news coverage is fair. Despite his lip service to transparency, this president is hostile to the First Amendment. In addition to spying on the phone calls and emails of reporters, his administration is on a record pace in denying Freedom of Information requests, turning down one-third of those filed.
Why every news outlet in the country wasnít screaming about the study is baffling. It took conservative talk shows, periodicals and Internet sites to derail this intrusion.
No wonder Obama is so eager to silence them.
Follow Nolan Finley at detroitnews.com/finley, on Twitter at nolanfinleydn, on Facebook at nolanfinleydetnews and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on "MiWeek" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.