FCC drops controversial 'newsroom activities' study

The study planned to look at whether news outlets were fulfilling their obligation to the public to provide critical information on subjects like public health, politics, transportation and the environment.
By Ananth Baliga  |  March 3, 2014 at 3:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission is dropping a controversial study that was supposed to look at the functioning of newsrooms and the journalist-management dynamic.

The FCC issued a statement saying they would not be going ahead with the Critical Information Needs study. The study, which was started in Columbia, S.C., included questions about how news stations decide what stories to cover and how journalists and management handle decisions regarding news coverage.

“The FCC will not move forward with the Critical Information Needs study. The Commission will reassess the best way to fulfill its obligation to Congress to identify barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses,” the statement read.

Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai was the first to talk about the issue and his vehement opposition of the study thrust it into the national spotlight. Pai is against the proposed study and even wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about his opposition to such a move.

"In our country, the government does not tell the people what information they need. Instead, news outlets and the American public decide that for themselves," Pai said.

Pai's opposition seemed to resonate with his fellow Republicans in the House. House telecommunications subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he would introduce legislation to strike down the study, if the FCC went ahead with it.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler earlier agreed to remove the newsroom questions from the study, but it seems the commission has decided to do away with the study completely. The FCC had said the study was to look at whether there were any barriers to entry in the media market -- something it is tasked to do by Congress.


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