Wednesday, February 26, 2014

House Republicans Vow 'Newsroom' Hearings

House Republicans plan to introduce legislation to bar the Federal Communications Commission from ever conducting the kind of intrusive newsroom study they claim the agency was poised to launch, before officials pulled back last week.

According to Fox News, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., head of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said Tuesday that he'll bring forward a bill, and hold a hearing, aimed at completely stopping this and any similar studies in the future.

"The potential for violation of the First Amendment is exceptionally egregious," he said in a statement.

Rep. Greg Walden
He was referring to the FCC's proposed "critical information needs" study, which in its initial form would have sent researchers into newsrooms across the country to ask them questions about editorial decisions. Critics, including at least one member of the FCC itself, complained that the study could have the effect of intimidating journalists and editors.

On Friday, the FCC said that Chairman Tom Wheeler agreed that some of the study's proposed questions "overstepped the bounds of what is required." The agency announced that a proposed pilot study in South Carolina would be shelved, at least until a "new study design" is finalized.

The agency also made clear that this and any future studies would not involve interviews with "media owners, news directors or reporters."

But Walden said he wants to go further, and make sure the study comes off the books entirely.

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