Skip to comments.FCC investigating editorial choices and bias in broadcasters — and newspapers
Posted on 02/11/2014 12:44:18 PM PST by SeekAndFind
“Everyone talks about the weather,” Mark Twain (apocryphally) observed, “but nobody does anything about it.” To some extent, the same is true about editorial bias. People have complained about bias in news coverage for decades, but only recently have the barriers to market entry been so low as to allow critics to build their own platforms to do anything about it. That frustration with editorial bias led in large part to the explosion of the blogosphere, which forced news outlets to deal substantively with the criticisms they created with their editorial biases.
That is the free-market approach. Should there be a regulatory approach to editorial bias — or is that just an opportunity for government-controlled news? FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai warns that his agency has begun exploring those ends:
But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.
Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.
The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters 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.”
Pai also warns that this will be explicitly political, both in substance and in process:
The FCC also wants to wade into office politics. One question for reporters is: “Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?” Follow-up questions ask for specifics about how editorial discretion is exercised, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions.
Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntaryin 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.
First, let’s muse on that question for a moment. Has there ever been a reporter who hasn’t had a story pitch rejected by his editors? Heck, I’ve even had that experience. Even while acknowledging the reality and problem of political biases, editors and management exist to marshal finite resources for the best possible use. This is basically begging the question of perceived bias and the need for intervention by taking a universal experience and making it into something suspicious, if not sinister.
This is a problem, though, that is explicitly tied to the First Amendment, and should be outside of the FCC’s purview. The agency exists to regulate the use of broadcast frequencies to keep those bands viable for commercial (and amateur) use, and not to impose mandates for the substance of the broadcasts. News outlets are free to adopt whatever points of view they like without fear of government intervention. If people don’t like those outlets, they can give their business to others in a free-market environment.
The most dysfunctional of these markets is the city newspaper business, where one daily usually dominates if not occupies the entire market. The FCC doesn’t regulate newspapers … at least not yet, but the study includes newspapers for some reason anyway. Why would the FCC be looking outside of its mandate like that?
The FCC claims that its political inquisitiveness is merely an attempt to quantify the barriers to market for entrepreneurs, but Pai rejects that. Editorial bias is not in any shape or form a barrier to market entry. This is one effort to which Congress should demand an immediate end.
At last, we can breath easy. The FCC is on the job.
Yes, Herr Hussein will discover newsrooms that are not sufficiently fascist for his liking.
The news I see locally and nationally looks like press releases written by Valerie Jarrett, Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the leadership of PETA, GLAAD, and the SEIU.
Fox News, once in a while, gets it right.
They want to silence different points of view and legitmate dissent. This will quickly turn into a full blown campaign of political intimidation under the guise of “media fairness”.
Our national descent into tyranny continues apace.
so federal agents will be in the media stations to insure they cover the ‘correct’ stories in the ‘approved’ manner
how’s that change feeling Amerika?
This appears to be about intimidating licensed local news outlets continuing their normalization of the Social Democrat party line. It would be hard to see how they could make those outlet more toad-like, unless it would be to make them cover more of the urban social activities presently relegated to the sub-channels of the lower tier.
Although its now central to Ed's story, the statement he makes at the start of the piece, "People have complained about bias in news coverage for decades, but only recently have the barriers to market entry been so low as to allow critics to build their own platforms to do anything about it," is not historically accurate. The monolithic "mainstream media" was born with Summer of Rage (1861), and the paramilitary and sometimes overtly military repression of the Northern Democrat newspapers.
Be that as it may, as some will disagree or be unfamiliar with that history, the birth of modern mainstream media really began with the invention of the telegraph and the telephone, radio and television, each of these developments was accompanied by a retrenchment of centralized media markets and government and federal government licensing.
Large periods and geography of the American experience has seen a media characterized by a wider literacy and hundreds of thousands of newspapers.
Small towns, comparatively very small towns, often had two or three newspapers, with little apology for their "bias," and no regard for the illusion either of being comprehensive or "neutral." The latter is an invention of the Left, guaranteed to have delivered to you a grand belly laugh for any honest newspaperman, less than a century ago.
Of course there are differences between the wide distribution of news sources, the Party Organs of Jefferson's time, and the present "blogosphere," but the similarities shouldn't be ignored.
A chill wind blowing.
Look for conservative talk radio to be driven from the airwaves ASAP.
Only homosexuals will be allowed on the AM dial.
So this corrupt administration is using the irs, the fcc and the ‘justice’ department to persecute its enemies. Fascist dictatorship anyone?
Couched in the language of “fairness” and “public need/good” but nothing more than the ministry of information....
Fox News, Conservative talk radio, Free Republic, etc......our days are numbered
2+2=5 in room 101
The Nazi Ajit Pai needs to be reminded that his philosphical progenitor, Julius Streicher, was hanged from the neck until dead at the Nuremberg trials.
“Fox News, Conservative talk radio, Free Republic, etc......our days are numbered”
We’re about to go to war and we don’t need defeatists in our ranks. Keep your surrender monkey BS to yourself.
wow, good thing we didn’t elect Romney...
Hardly “...surrender monkey bs...” Merely an observation. EVERYONE is looking for indicators. This is just another point that demonstrates how far the American experiment has deteriorated.
Thanks 2ndDivisionVet. So, after their investigation of Rush, then who?
It’s time that we had proportional representation of Republicans in all newsrooms!
You need to reread the article.