FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who blew the whistle on the federal agency’s plan to study purported bias in the news, says the survey has been "suspended," not canceled as the FCC has said.
The Federal Communications Commission declared last week that it had shelved
a controversial survey on how newsrooms cover various news stories, which was derided by critics as a threat to the First Amendment right of press freedom.
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But in explaining the decision, FCC spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said that "the pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final," suggesting the program could be brought back at a later date.
"It's suspended, and the way I like to think about it is [how] you would think about a baseball game being suspended," Pai told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV. "It’s not being canceled, it could come back," he said Monday.
"The good thing is that the FCC has said that any study along these lines will not involve government researchers going into newsrooms and asking questions about a perceived station bias or how they decide to cover certain stories, not others, whether they're covering the critical information needs that people need to know.
"But nonetheless, we need to remain vigilant to make sure that any future study doesn't intrude on that core constitutional freedom of the press. The devil's going to be in the details, and if they decide to go ahead with this study, you can rest assured that I'll be watching to make sure that nothing like this is attempted again."
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Pai had revealed earlier this month to The Wall Street Journal that the FCC planned to infiltrate newsrooms with the potential that media organizations would eventually be pressured into covering certain stories.
But he told Newsmax that the agency, as part of its apparent plan to intrude on media coverage, had twisted a provision of the law that requires the FCC to report to Congress every three years on barriers that businesses face when they're trying to get into the communications industry and the broadcasting business.
"As I looked over the study design, it seemed to me that some of the questions and some of the purposes had nothing to do with that report. I mean, they're trying to figure out what a station's perceived bias is or whether reporters have been told by management not to cover certain stories," Pai said.
"I mean, that has nothing to do with barriers to entry, and that's one of the reasons why I got a little bit concerned, especially because this was an initiative that none of us voted on. This wasn't decided by a vote of all the commissioners, and it was important to bring public awareness to this issue."
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