This year the FCC is launching a wide-ranging study that will require news agencies to inform the government on what stories they cover.
A study, titled “Research Design for the Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” was released in April. The study was produced by a company called Social Solutions International, Inc.. SSI has been awarded hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in federal contracts.
One of the goals of this new project is to conduct a “media census” on just what is being broadcast in the electronic media and published in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet.
“Researchers will analyze the content of broadcasts, newspaper articles, and website postings to determine the extent to which eight defined ‘Critical Information Needs’ (CINs) are being covered,” reported Eve Reed.
In a May 24 announcement of the project, Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said that the FCC has a “duty” to find out what news is being broadcast.
To determine if the media is fulfilling these CINs, media outlets will be required to fill out a very long survey to report to the government about what stories they are airing or publishing in the several categories being assessed.
Among other criteria, the study will ascertain: what “news philosophy” is pursued by the media outlet (i.e. it’s ideological direction); how the media outlet defines “critical information”; see if the media includes “community input” into its stories; and review the “decision making process” to find out how the media outlet determines what stories to cover.
Critics of this study, however, worry that with this government-enforced, intrusive survey into what stories the media is covering and how they are covering them, some freedoms will be lost.
Chuck Sweeny, for instance, wrapped up his recent report on the FCC’s study saying, “When ‘Big Brother is watching’ over reporters’ and editors’ shoulders, freedom of the press will be gone, and our liberty with it.”
[Editor’s Note: It appears the FCC is not requiring media to report on their content for purposes of this study. Most data will be obtained through public sources, but there will be some in-depth interviews with management and support staff.]