Reaction was swift to late Friday’s news that the FCC will cancel its so-called newsroom study and find another way to find out if news coverage is not serving the communities’ needs.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai welcomed the decision, calling the study a “distraction.”
“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,” said Pai.
House Republicans Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon called the decision a victory for the First Amendment and freedom of the press, noting that “this unprecedented and dangerous intrusion on America’s newsrooms should never have been pursued in the first place.” They said questions remain, and called the cancellation of the Critical Information Needs study “an important first step.” Walden had been prepared to hold a hearing and introduce legislation barring the study.
Originally, station owners and newsroom personnel were to have been questioned about their decision-making processes as part of the study. New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler then backed off that portion of the effort, saying it would be done without the newsroom questioning, however it became clear from opposition from Republican lawmakers and journalistic advocacy as well as watchdog groups that the issue was taking on a political life of its own and dominating commission news coverage.