Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) and his GOP colleagues in the Senate sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the agency to clarify its recent study that aimed to influence newsrooms.
The senators asked FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to explain why the agency was trying to promote the Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN), which asked news agencies questions about their story choices and operations.
The letter described the study as unconstitutional:
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.