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After GOP Senators’ United Calls, FCC Pulls The Plug On Controversial Attempts To Investigate Newsrooms’ Activities

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NEWS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR ROY BLUNT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a concerted effort this week by all Republican Senators to stop the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from encroaching on newsrooms’ editorial decisions, the FCC announced today that it will not move forward with the controversial Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN Study), which posed highly inappropriate questions of news editors about how they select stories, station bias, and even about their “news philosophy.”

The FCC’s announcement today comes after U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) and all of his Republican Senate colleagues sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler calling on him to explain the FCC’s efforts to impact newsrooms’ editorial decisions. To read the letter, please see below or click here.

“This study was a blatant intrusion by the government into the editorial decisions in newsrooms across America,” said Blunt. “I’m glad the FCC has backed away from this controversial survey, which would stifle free speech nationwide.”

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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