This article, by Capital Research Center’s Matthew Vadum, first appeared in FrontPage magazine.
The Coming of the News Police
By Matthew Vadum
The Obama administration is planning to send what critics characterize as government spies into the newsrooms of the nation’s media outlets.
This unprecedented assault on Americans’ First Amendment freedoms is part of the Community Organizer-in-Chief’s political war against the few pockets of media resistance he has encountered at Fox News and in the world of talk radio. Sending federal bureaucrats to meddle in newsroom affairs by conducting an alleged “study” will chill news coverage and make government-licensed broadcast media think twice about airing stories that place the Obama administration in a bad light.
To this end the Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN. Although the FCC is a regulatory body, not a research organization, it plans to send researchers to question reporters, editors, and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. In the spring a field test is set for Columbia, S.C.
The FCC intends to discover “the process by which stories are selected,” how often stations cover “critical information needs,” the media outlets’ “perceived station bias,” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” The phrase “underserved populations” is politically correct neo-Marxist jargon and a screaming red flag that some kind of quota system may be on its way.
Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee attacked the study idea, saying it was a step towards a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.”
“Given the widespread calls for the Commission to respect the First Amendment and stay out of the editorial decisions of reporters and broadcasters, we were shocked to see that the FCC is putting itself back in the business of attempting to control the political speech of journalists,” all Republicans on the committee wrote in a letter to new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
“It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.’”
In an interview with Fox’s Megyn Kelly, Townhall.com news editor Katie Pavlich eviscerated the proposed study:
I don’t understand why the Obama administration hasn’t understood this idea that when the Department of Justice monitored the phone lines of journalists, and their parents by the way, that wasn’t enough to them. Now they want to send investigators into newsrooms all over the country whether it’s broadcast or print. They have no business sending those people into our newsrooms. How we gather news is none of the government’s business. And this isn’t about the FCC getting people the information that they, quote, need, as they claim. This is about controlling what people say and this is about intimidating the news through these –whatever you want to call them– navigators.
Pavlich, author of the New York Times bestselling book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up, continued:
I just think it’s such an asinine concept that the government, government bureaucrats are now going to be appointed to come in and monitor professionals, editors, reporters, and decide the best way for them to gather news as if they don’t know what they’re doing and then to try and shift the focus from certain stories to others.
The leftist radicals at Obama’s FCC know they won’t be able to nationalize media outlets outright. They would love nothing more than to force the nation’s free media institutions to take race, class, and sex into account in future reporting.
Mark Lloyd, appointed by Obama as FCC diversity czar from 2009 to 2012, gave away the game, explaining years ago one of the ways the left planned to mau-mau its perceived opponents in the media. In short, the left wants to harass media outlets into docility in order to allow the fundamental transformation of America to proceed.
Lloyd is a huge fan of the late communist dictator Hugo Chavez and a disciple of Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky, Seton Motley explained during Lloyd’s tenure.
In his 2006 book entitled Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America, [Lloyd] calls for an all-out ‘confrontational movement’ against private media. He wants leftist activists – through incessant political pressure – and the government – through the creation of a totally untenable operating environment of fees, fines and regulations – to work together to force the commercial broadcasters out, to be replaced by public broadcasters.
Summoning the spirit of “Repressive Tolerance” essayist Herbert Marcuse, Lloyd argues that privately owned media outlets work against the public interest. Freedom of speech or the press “is all too often an exaggeration,” he wrote. “[T]he purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance.”
Obama’s attacks on freedom of the press have not gone unnoticed by media watchdogs.
Thanks to Obama’s heavy-handed treatment of the media, the U.S. is ranked an embarrassing 46th on the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, falling between Romania (45th) and Haiti (47th) out of 180 countries scored. The U.S. scores worse than Botswana (41st), United Kingdom (33rd), Ghana (27th), Canada (18th), New Zealand (9th), and Finland (1st).
Just last year the U.S. was ranked 33rd. The 13-place drop by the U.S., one of the biggest national declines over last year, was blamed ”on increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks.” The U.S. ranking has plunged from 20th since 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is preparing to reward its allies in the world of community organizing and give the left a big boost on the conservative-dominated radio airwaves.
The FCC is awarding broadcast radio frequencies made available by new technology that could lead to the creation of 1,000 left-wing radio stations as Steven J. Allen previously reported. Successor groups for the ACORN organizing network, which had operated several radio stations, and other Saul Alinsky-inspired community organizing groups could be awarded the lion’s share of the available licenses.
As the leftists at “Democracy Now!” cheered during the application period in the fall: “This means nonprofits, labor unions and community groups have a one-time-only chance this year to own a bit of the broadcast airwaves. It is being heralded as the largest expansion of community radio in United States history.”
The licenses to be issued by the FCC cover LPFM (Low Power FM) stations that will each cover a radius of around three or four miles. But many of the licenses will cover major cities, which means that a single station could reach 100,000 listeners, excluding people listening over the Internet.
As former Occupy Philadelphia spokesman Jeff Rousset gushed last year while applications were being accepted, “The work that we do over the next four months will really help shape the course of this country’s media landscape for the next 40 years.”
It is a fair bet that the radio stations that Rousset helps to establish won’t have anything to fear from Obama’s FCC.