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February 11, 2014

The FCC Will Begin Investigating Bias In the Media (and By That, They Mean Conservative Bias)

The transformation of America continues apace.

News organizations often disagree about what Americans need to know. MSNBC, for example, apparently believes that traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., is the crisis of our time. Fox News, on the other hand, chooses to cover the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi more heavily than other networks. The American people, for their part, disagree about what they want to watch.

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."

How does the FCC plan to dig up all that information? First, the agency selected eight categories of "critical information" such as the "environment" and "economic opportunities," that it believes local newscasters should cover. It plans to ask station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters to tell the government about their "news philosophy" and how the station ensures that the community gets critical information.

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 voluntary—in 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.

The giveaway here is the FCC's focus on "underserved communities," which means minority communities, and, as minorities are largely Democratic voters and as the Democratic Party aggressively courts the minority vote with its rhetoric and policy proposals, this indicates that the inquiry will not be into MSNBC's bias, but into, for example, Fox's news judgment to treat the Trayvon Martin shooting with a skeptical eye.

Thus, erroneous left-leaning reportage on the Trayvon Martin shooting (such as claiming, in a major report, that Zimmerman called Martin a "c**n" on his 911 call; or NBC's deliberately editing Zimmerman into saying "he looks black" without prompting) or will not be a subject of inquiry, but FoxNews' decision to cover both claims and counterclaims will be the subject of inquiry.

Any corporation -- and any person, actually -- will usually opt for the path of least resistance. It's easier and safer to do the thing that government and society approve of-- you know you face no heat for saying the politically-correct, government-approved thing.

The FCC's rule seeks to make a progressive tilt in news bias not only "safe" as a matter of social mores and general industry bias towards the left, but also safe as regards the law.

This becomes ever-more frightening. This Administration simply does not seem to recognize any principle or ethical limits on what it can do as far as advancing the leftist cause.

I understand that leftists, of course, have the right to agitate politically for their preferred policies. I do not deny that.

But we are witnessing here the government -- the government! -- actively seeking to create a hostile and frightening legal environment for anyone who disagrees with the leftist cause.

They are basically putting people on notice that there is a "right" way to report the news, and a "wrong" way, and the right way will let you keep your broadcasting license, and the wrong way might just lose it for you.

This is so breathtakingly unconstitutional I don't know quite what to say. I understand that it is my duty as an American to accept when I've lost an election, to accept when the democratic processes return a result I disfavor.

But am I now required to further accept that, per government mandate, the leftist position on any policy question is to be officially favored?

The left pushes for an unbreachable wall between Church and State. But here they are pushing for a very porous and very low wall between State Power and Leftist Politics.

Shoe on the other foot: If President Romney directed the FCC to investigate whether this is a leftist bias in news reportage, with possible consequences for refusing to take part in a "voluntary" study, what would the left say then?

They would object. They would be right to object.

And yet here we are, as usual, with one rule for the left, and another one for anyone who disagrees with the left. Two legs good, four legs better.


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posted by Ace at 05:27 PM

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