Nonsequitur: Is the FCC Violating the Constitutional Right to Free Press?

February 20, 2014

U.S. Constitution, Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

According to Ajit Pai, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC will soon be “abridging” the freedom of the press. In a program called, “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” (CIN), the FCC will be gathering data from news sources including TV, radio, internet, and newspaper organizations to analyze “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.” While participation is voluntary, the FCC controls operating licenses for most of these news outlets. The FCC will then determine what news is “critical” for the public and for underserved populations. Of course, this means they will also determine which news is not “critical.”

Pai believes that the government has no right to monitor what news is broadcast and why. Nor does the government have the right to directly influence content, determining what news the public should or should not see. Leaders and members of the US House Energy & Commerce Committee agree. Finally, this study includes newspapers and other print outlets, which do NOT fall under the authority of the FCC.

You can read the FCC plan for the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” (CIN) here.

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