The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scrapping a study of media organizations that had riled up opponents concerned that it would impinge upon freedom of the press. The study, focused on what the FCC called “Critical Information Needs” (CIN) in the area of public health, environment and others, was to take a hard look at the content churned out by news organizations as well as interview staffers at news organizations about how they reached editorial decisions.
In an influential piece in the Wall Street Journal, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican appointee, issued this warning: “Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntary — in theory. Unlike the opinion surveys that Americans see on a daily basis and either answer or not, as they wish, the FCC’s queries may be hard for the broadcasters to ignore. They would be out of business without an FCC license, which must be renewed every eight years.” Similar concerns issued from many other commentators.
And they have had impact. In an announcement that can be found on the FCC website, the agency is changing directions: “To be clear, media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the Columbia, S.C. pilot study. The pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final. Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters.”
Good. Because interviewing media owners, news directors and reporters — we have plenty of media critics in this world to do all that stuff. We got this, FCC.