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The Washington Times

Americans say no to the ‘monitoring’ of free speech

A First Amendment victory over an intrusive federal government doesn’t come along every day, but thanks to a deafening outcry from the American people, the Obama administration has just backed down from an unconstitutional plan to put monitors in newsrooms in a dramatic fashion.

Recently, the Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a program, euphemistically labeled a “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” to place government monitors in the newsrooms of TV networks, “news and talk-radio stations,” and newspaper companies across the United States.

Imagine FCC monitors peering over the shoulders of editors, producers and reporters as they make decisions about what news to air and how to communicate it to the public.

This monitoring program, as Orwellian as it sounds, moved along toward implementation this spring, completely out of the public spotlight. That is, until FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai sounded the alarm, exposing the FCC’s “plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run.”

He was rightly concerned, and the American people took notice.

FCC monitors in newsrooms across America would pose a monumental threat to free speech and freedom of the press. The FCC already exercises immense control over broadcast stations through license renewal every eight years. These monitors would give the FCC the ability to intimidate the press on a daily basis.

The fact is, this was not a “study” in any sense of the word. The FCC began by developing eight categories of information that it prejudged as the “critical information needs” of the American public.

Sending monitors into newsrooms would be nothing more than a witch hunt to intimidate stations that don’t fall in line with programming that conforms to the predetermined “needs” of the Obama administration.

According to the program’s design, the station owners, managers and reporters would be asked intrusive questions about their “news philosophy” and “target audience.”

If these questions sound eerily familiar, it’s because they are some of the same questions demanded of Tea Party, pro-life and other conservative groups who have been wrongly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service: What is your philosophy? Who are your members? What issues do you promote?

 

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