Posted on February 25, 2014

What Was the FCC Newsroom ‘Survey’ Really About?

Byron York, Washington Examiner, February 24, 2014

When controversy erupted over the FCC’s now-suspended plan to question journalists in newsrooms around the country, some conservative critics saw a grossly unconstitutional attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Others saw a grossly unconstitutional attempt to press the Obama administration agenda on a broad range of issues. But the FCC’s action may have, in fact, been something different: an attempt–still grossly unconstitutional in its method–to lay a foundation for a new government push to increase minority ownership of the nation’s media outlets.

A key advocate of the project to assess whether news organizations are meeting government-defined “critical information needs” was Mignon Clyburn, an Obama-appointed FCC commissioner and for part of last year the acting chair of the FCC. Clyburn, who is the daughter of powerful House Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, has long advocated more minority ownership in the media. But she has often reminded colleagues that to make the case for policies that would increase minority ownership, proponents need more empirical information to support their contention that more diverse ownership would be better than what exists today. {snip}

The “critical information needs,” or CIN, study appears to have been an effort to gather material to support Clyburn’s position. “The FCC needs better data ‘hard and fast’ to create policy that would increase the number of minority-owned broadcast stations, said acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn at the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters conference,” reported the trade publication Communications Daily last October. The article went on: “Clyburn . . . briefed attendees on several proposals at the FCC and in Congress that might address the difficulties of minority broadcasters, but she said the FCC’s collection of data is a prerequisite for changes. ‘A complete picture of the media landscape is necessary to entertain . . . any major policy adjustment in the short term,’ she said.”