A controversial proposal by the FCC to monitor newsrooms for fairness in their coverage will face a "strong challenge" because it violates the Constitution's promise of a free press, former U.S. attorney and legal analyst Kendall Coffey says.
"It's going to raise big, big First Amendment questions," Coffey, founding partner of Coffey Burlington of Miami," told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"You don't have to go in, burn down the TV station, trash a newsroom to violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment can be violated by what they call a chilling effect.
"In other words, people are simply deterred or intimidated about expressing their First Amendment rights and this seems to be exactly the kind of scenario which is going to tee up a strong challenge."
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The FCC's controversial proposal was revealed in a study called "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs."
The agency stated that it wants to be able to examine "the process by which stories are selected" and possible "station bias" in selecting them.
The idea would be that the supposedly voluntary program would help make sure "underserved populations" were covered.
But Coffey scoffed at the FCC's vow that the surveillance program can be defined as voluntary.
"I'm a lawyer. If the Florida Bar tells me, 'gee, we would like to have people in your law firm hanging out watching what you do, is that OK with you?'" he said.
"My livelihood is in their hands. So it doesn't sound all that voluntary to me."
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