The government that spies on reporters and targets its own citizens also wants to have a say in who owns media outlets and what news is critically important to report. What seems like a government creeping on the news media doesn’t stop with the FCC – there’s more.
The FCC commissioned a study in 2012 that puts the federal government dead in the middle of our country’s news rooms.
It begins with a “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs”, also known as CIN. The FCC claims that “this research can be used to identify and understand the critical information needs (CINs) of the American public (with special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations).
Social solutions, a human services software company, will study “media ecologies” for the government by grilling pretty much everyone in control of the media – reporters, editors, station owners et al about how they decide which stories to run.
Social Solutions says they have been charged by the federal government with the “development of a research design that can be used to identify and understand the critical information needs (CINs) of the American public (with special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations).”
This company is agenda-driven.
The FCC claims they want to glean information 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” from radio and TV broadcasters.
They are including newspapers in the study even though the FCC has no authority over them except what it is now assuming in what promises to be yet another government overreach.
Their categories of “critical information” cover the “environment” and “economic opportunities.” Undoubtedly, issues around the green agenda, redistribution, income inequality will be covered. Obama’s promise zones are a Social Solutions initiative.
As Mr. Obama maps every neighborhood, Social Solutions is working for the federal government “to help transform distressed communities around the United States,” concentrating on promise zones. Will the government eventually push the news media into propagandizing the efforts?
CIN study will consider the question of what station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters need to cover. They will have to share their “news philosophy” which must cover critical information needs for the community. They will also probe journalists as to whether or not management rejected stories with critical information.
While participation is voluntary, the broadcasters know they have to please the FCC which holds their very existence in their hands.
The FCC claims they want to know “what barriers to entry exist in the FCC regulated markets and to what extent do those barriers to entry have a negative impact?” It’s more likely they want to erect barriers for some. It is the government.
The CIN has been quietly in the works since 2012 and is soon moving on to the next phase which will look at media ownership.
Last October, the FCC launched a study into Latino television and Latino media ownership. The study is being applauded by The National Media Hispanic Network as a long time coming. The end result of this and the CIN is to consider “media ownership” and the “rules about how many media properties a single entity can own.”
Will the government get to decide this?
There aren’t enough Latinos in the media? They want “diverse” media owners? Once one group is favored over another, it inherently becomes unfair to those left out.
Where will it go from here if the government gets to decide who owns media stations and what news they are to cover? Will it all be done according to what they consider “fairness”?
It is reminiscent of the Fairness Doctrine of 1949 which forced networks to give equal time for contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues. We have an unspoken modified but voluntary version of that in the media today. There were decades of complaints with many broadcasters simply avoiding controversial subjects. It was not enforced after 1987 and it was taken off the books in 2011, but now we have the CIN. Buyer beware!
Right now, there is a bill before Congress that is picking up sponsors with the deceptive name, Free Flow of Information Act of 2014. It is a federal Shield Act to allegedly protect journalists by granting them the right to refuse to testify as to information or sources of information except if it impacts national security, which they have now in most states.
There are three problems with that.
First, the government gets to decide what is a national security matter. They can define it as anything and fall back on their usual explanations for overreach – it’s top secret.
Secondly, the Act also allows federal judges to decide if certain news stories have a public interest.
Lastly, the Act is also dangerous in that it could shut out alternative news sources since it gives the federal government the job of defining the term “journalist.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein has already produced a bill that attempted to shut down alternative media.
Then we have the NDAA amendment to the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 which now allows US propaganda prepared by the State Department for foreign audiences to be disseminated in the US. It makes it challenging to determine what is true and what isn’t.
There are a lot of dangerous forces at work which threaten what we have left of the “free press.”
More reading at the WSJ