February 28, 2014

Idaho Senators Tell FCC To Stop Stifling Free Speech

Crapo and Risch join all GOP colleagues and condemn serious FCC overreach, demand transparency for American people

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined all of their Republican colleagues to demand an explanation for an ill-conceived and inappropriate study regarding newsroom decisions.  In a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Senators, led by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) want to know the reasons behind why the FCC undertook the study, which has now been suspended.

In recent weeks, Idahoans along with the rest of the country learned that the FCC was attempting to move forward with a Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN Study), which posed highly inappropriate questions to news editors about how they select stories, station bias, and even about their "news philosophy."  After the study received national condemnation from across the political spectrum, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler suspended the study last Friday and indicated that the survey would be subsequently "revised."

"It is impossible to imagine a rationale for the Commission to consider using the CIN Study under any circumstance given its flagrantly unconstitutional implications," the Senators wrote. "We demand an explanation of how the Commission internally justified the CIN Study as fulfilling its statutory requirement to report on market barriers to entry, as well as the costs incurred by the Commission on this blatantly inappropriate study.  We also insist all commissioners be involved in future statutorily required studies in order to guard against the clear potential for abuse." 

Crapo and Risch pledge to remain vigilant on this matter and ensure the Administration make no further threats to Idahoans' freedom of speech.

Full text of the letter follows--

February 25, 2014

The Honorable Tom Wheeler

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

We write to express our grave concerns regarding the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) defunct Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs ("CIN Study"). 

It is impossible to imagine a rationale for the Commission to consider using the CIN Study under any circumstance given its flagrantly unconstitutional implications.  It is even more troubling that a Commission spokesperson attempted to justify the CIN Study as a report on barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications marketplace - particularly when consumers are free to obtain news and information from a vibrant diversity of sources, including multiple broadcast outlets, print media, cable networks, and the Internet. 

The CIN Study, as it was originally envisioned, sought to collect information on the process by which stories are selected and even asked about "news philosophy."  Such questions are wholly unacceptable and alarming because they invite government intrusion into editorial decisions.  While we are relieved the Commission appears to have halted the CIN Study, it is nevertheless troubling the Commission was on schedule to begin using a study that grossly intrudes on the First Amendment as early as this spring.  Indeed, it was not until the CIN Study received national headlines and earned broad condemnation that the Commission took steps to remedy a problem that should have never occurred in the first place. 

We demand an explanation of how the Commission internally justified the CIN Study as fulfilling its statutory requirement to report on market barriers to entry, as well as the costs incurred by the Commission on this blatantly inappropriate study.  We also insist all commissioners be involved in future statutorily required studies in order to guard against the clear potential for abuse.