FCC has no business in newsrooms

To newsrooms everywhere, the First Amendment and, in particular, the Freedom of the Press is akin to the Holy Bible.
Feb 27, 2014


We rejoice, then, when journalists fight against any infringement on our right to a free press.

Why? Without a free press, the idea of a free society doesn’t stand a chance.

We call it just an idea at this point, given the fact that the Obama administration continues to hammer away at our freedoms — both those in society and in the press.

The most recent example of this abhorrent and relentless assault on the press came from the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC is charged primarily with licensing radio and television broadcast stations, and monitoring their on-air programming to make sure it stays within the bounds of public decency.

Up until this past year, the FCC mainly stayed out of the business of newspapering, and certainly didn’t have any public interest or say over what stories were or weren’t pursued within newsroom — broadcast or print — walls.

But, this past year, under the reign of a commission appointed by President Obama, the FCC concocted a program that would have put federal officials inside the walls of newsrooms to grill reporters, editors and news directors about what kinds of stories they pursue, why, and the process by which stories either are spiked or sent to the front page.

For the first time in America’s history, the federal government sought to exert control over news content.

While it’s unclear exactly how the FCC would have controlled or otherwise punished newsrooms — especially because newspapers do not have to be licensed by the federal agency — it’s clear their very presence would have had a chilling effect on newsgathering and news decision-making.

The Tribune’s ownership would no doubt have put up a fight against this FCC tampering, and they likely would have been able to do so because the FCC doesn’t have a toehold in our operation after our parent corporation last year sold the only radio stations it owned.

But many other large news organizations would likely have been more intimidated given the facts that these publicly traded companies also own television and/or radio stations that are licensed by the FCC.

Luckily, we won’t have to test the willingness of news organizations to fight long and hard against this federal intrusion. Thanks to pressure from Republicans in Congress, this incarnation of the pilot program was scuttled late last week. This is our reason to celebrate.

The next program the FCC cooks up, however, will need close scrutiny because the commission’s assurance that they “overstepped the bounds of what is required … and would be modifying the draft study” could very well be hot air, meant to pacify those ringing the liberty bell.

As always, we must remain vigilant — for both our freedoms as the press and those of society as a whole.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



Community Members!!

Please ask yourself WHY???

Why would a government attempt to force Gun Control on its people without consent?

Why would this same Leviathan attempt to control all news outlets?

Individual Liberty is something worth DYING over!

The Signals are Clear


Although it's heartening to know the Tribune would have contested this gross violation of the First Amendment, the mainstream Broadcast T.V. stations, and liberal cable networks and print outlets were strangely silent in the face of this attempted big government intrusion into the newsrooms. The only significant media attention to the program, and push-back came from Fox News and conservative media outlets. We never would have heard about except for an op ed by a Republican FCC Commissioner in the Wall Street Journal.

This may be explained by the liberal media's belief that having carried water for the Obama administration from the very beginning, and by failing to cover many of the Obama administration's lies, scandals and failures, they believed they would be immune from attempts by the administration to silence them or alter the content of their reporting.

A more likely reason for their silence is the tentacles of George Soros in the FCC attempted intrusion, and their fear of his money and influence.

"Two schools were working with FCC on the project, according to Byron York of The Washington Examiner. The University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy, were tasked by the FCC with coming up with criteria for what information is "critical" for Americans to have. The FCC study would have covered newspapers, websites, radio and television, according to The Washington Post.

On top of the 1st Amendment problems with this proposal, the schools involved have strong ties to liberal billionaire George Soros' Open Society Foundations and have gotten more than $1.8 million from since 2000.

The journalism programs at these schools have even more ties to Soros besides their funding, including faculty members writing for university-based publications allied with Soros-funded outlets.

The schools have collaborated on this project going back at least to 2012. Lewis A. Friedland, who was a "principle investigator" for the FCC on this project, also directs the Center for Communication and Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He gave a presentation at Annenberg in Feb. 2012, on "communication ecology." This was just four months before the schools presented their findings to the FCC.

There is just no rational explanation for the media's lack of outrage over a federal government "study" that should put a chill down the spine of anyone who understand how important a free press is to protecting democracy." http://cnsnews.com/mrctv-blog/mi...


Can someone provide a link I am confused as the facts of this situation. Was it a study or were they trying to regulate newspapers?

Former Grandhavenite

"For the first time in America’s history, the federal government sought to exert control over news content."

While I support the Tribune's position on this, I don't really think this statement is historically accurate. There was extensive censorship of newspapers during the Civil War and World War I in particular, but more limited instances of censorship and attempted censorship have been fairly common.

I too would like more details on the specifics of the proposal being referenced here.


This proposal flew under the radar for almost a year until it was recently publicized by a Republican FCC Commissioner in the Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/news/artic...

The project is the pet of Mignon Clyburn, Obama FCC appointee, daughter of COngressman and Congressional Black Caucus member James Clyburn. The contract for the study was given to a woman and minority owned business in the Washington, D.C. suburbs that had no experience in news but is part of a cottage industry of firms contracting principally with the Federal Government on race and gender issues.

What drew the ire of most conservative journalists is that the study allegedly was to identify barriers to and increase minority ownership of media outlets (which, in my humble opinion, is unconstitutional and beyond the power of the federal government but that's for another day), but many of the questions to be posed by "monitors" in the newsrooms appear to have nothing to do with minority ownership issues. If you care to wade through the whole contractor proposal, it is here: http://transition.fcc.gov/bureau...

For those of us who question many of the government's motives, especially under this Administration, this intrusion into newsroom has the whiff of the Fairness Doctrine and censorship, if only through the chilling effect it could have. This is especially true given that the FCC wanted to apply the study to the print media and cable; it has no jurisdiction over newspapers and very little over cable - certainly not content.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Since Obama is making law through "Executive Actions" - HHS regulations (Obamacare) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Immigration) this FCC intrusion is concerning.

Back to the Wall

This is part of the introductory roll-out of the new "Ministry of Information". It's to protect us all.

Your hatred of Dear Leader has been noted.


Ill have to read the second link when I have time.
I have to say that the details are sketchy to me as to what the intentions are. I do agree the government has a legal obligation to allow free press. That said I found this article by Cheryl Welch to be misleading and confusing. She accuses the Obama administration of taking our freedom yet doesnt back it up with facts. In fact the article seems completely absent of any hard facts. She also claims this is a first which by reading Vlads_ first link it is obviously not. This article was rushed and poorly researched. Which seems to be typical of these supposed "Our views." Honestly I would rather read Vlads daily onslaught than this.


is it really a big deal? It might be different B.S. instead of the B.S. they call news now. Big whoop.

Tri-cities realist

I am glad the Trib wrote an opinion piece on this topic, it was the only time I've ever written to the Trib, that is how chilling this proposed program is to me. I don't care which side of the aisle you are on, if you think the govt has ANY business inside of a newsroom of any kind, you really should re-read our Constitution. Hopefully the Bill of Rights still means something other than a bunch of words on an old piece of paper.


Huzzahs to the editorial staff of Tribune of calling this issue out loud and clear.

Everyone knows that any charge of "racism" is enough to terrify most persons into cowering submission. Knowing this, the Obama Administration thought they might be able to cow news organizations into accepting government "monitors" into newsrooms to root out nascent or overt racism in news coverage. Once they had their toes inside the newsroom...well, let your imagination carry you.


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