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Senator Toomey working to stop FCC from stifling freedom of the press

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) called on the Federal Communications Commission to explain what he calls its inappropriate attempts to police news rooms nationwide.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to explain what he calls its inappropriate attempts to police news rooms nationwide.

Senator Toomey and all of his Republican Senate colleagues signed a letter to the FCC Chairman asking him to explain the federal government’s intrusion into newsrooms.

In recent weeks, Americans learned that the FCC was attempting to move forward with a Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN Study), which would investigate how news rooms select stories, “perceived station bias,” and even about why news stations do not spend more time reporting stories the Administration deems “critical.” After the study received national condemnation, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler suspended it and indicated that the survey would be subsequently “revised.”

“It is impossible to imagine a rationale for the Commission to consider using the CIN Study under any circumstance given its flagrantly unconstitutional implications,” Sen. Toomey and the other Senators wrote. “We demand an explanation of how the Commission internally justified the CIN Study as fulfilling its statutory requirement to report on market barriers to entry, as well as the costs incurred by the Commission on this blatantly inappropriate study. We also insist all commissioners be involved in future statutorily required studies in order to guard against the clear potential for abuse.”



The text of the letter is below and a signed version is attached.


February 25, 2014

The Honorable Tom Wheeler
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:



We write to express our grave concerns regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) defunct Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (“CIN Study”).

It is impossible to imagine a rationale for the Commission to consider using the CIN Study under any circumstance given its flagrantly unconstitutional implications. It is even more troubling that a Commission spokesperson attempted to justify the CIN Study as a report on barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications marketplace – particularly when consumers are free to obtain news and information from a vibrant diversity of sources, including multiple broadcast outlets, print media, cable networks, and the Internet.

The CIN Study, as it was originally envisioned, sought to collect information on the process by which stories are selected and even asked about “news philosophy.” Such questions are wholly unacceptable and alarming because they invite government intrusion into editorial decisions. While we are relieved the Commission appears to have halted the CIN Study, it is nevertheless troubling the Commission was on schedule to begin using a study that grossly intrudes on the First Amendment as early as this spring. Indeed, it was not until the CIN Study received national headlines and earned broad condemnation that the Commission took steps to remedy a problem that should have never occurred in the first place.

We demand an explanation of how the Commission internally justified the CIN Study as fulfilling its statutory requirement to report on market barriers to entry, as well as the costs incurred by the Commission on this blatantly inappropriate study. We also insist all commissioners be involved in future statutorily required studies in order to guard against the clear potential for abuse.



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