A proposed Federal Communications Commission study on how journalists decide which topics to cover sounds like a gold mine for PR pros seeking a peek at the inner workings of newsrooms. Vocal critics, though, say it would trample the media’s First Amendment rights.
The outcry over the study started Feb. 10, when FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal
in which she stated, “The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a letter released Thursday
that the FCC has “has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters.”
The sticking point for many critics is that the study will reportedly take on “perceived station bias” and examine how “critical information needs” are being reported. Many critics on the political right see that as the Obama administration’s targeting of Fox News.
The conservative American Center for Law and Justice has started a petition
to put a halt to the study. It has received nearly 63,500 signatures.
[RELATED: Find out how to craft the perfect pitch at our April PR & Media Relations event in NYC.]
columnist Arit John wrote that the FCC should have been more prepared for a fight:
The FCC should have anticipated a backlash. Conservatives who fear the Obama administration is using the government to punish them were bound to be upset with this, given the recent IRS/Tea Party controversy and the NSA's phone tapping.
So what does all this mean for PR pros? It might simply mean that in a few months the FCC will publish a report offering insight into how newsrooms work. It may mean nothing at all, if opponents get their way and the study doesn’t happen. Or it could mean that calls to some journalists may be even more stressful than they were before.