The Federal Communications Commission has decided to postpone its controversial newsroom survey until a "new study design" is finalized, according to Fox News. After a conservative- and Congress-led backlash over the invasiveness of the study, which would have asked newsrooms how they decide what to cover, an agency representative conceded that it "may not have been appropriate" to plan on interviewing broadcast journalists.
"Media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the Columbia, S.C. pilot study," FCC spokesperson Shannon Gilson said on Friday. "The pilot will not be undertaken until a new study design is final. Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters."
As The Wire explained Thursday, concerned over the study were raised earlier this month by Ajit Pai, a Republican FCC Commissioner. Conservative print, online and broadcast news sites expressed concern over whether this was an attempt by the government to suppress right leaning bias. The National Review went so far as to compare it to the IRS scandal. "The Obama governing philosophy combines the regulatory state with an intolerance of dissent," wrote David French. "Taken together, this means an extreme level of government intrusion into private activity." Several Republican House members also wrote to the FCC.
Now that the FCC has backed down on the study, probably permanently, the scandal that almost was won't be. Still, those who didn't like the study won't forget that the FCC considered it. "Still bizarro that it was even floated," tweeted David M. Drucker at the Washington Examiner. Fox News' Howard Kurtz agreed:
FCC checking on TV bias and news gathering was an outrage and a PR debacle. Who approved this? And why did agency defend it?— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) February 21, 2014
I predicted on Fox this morning that FCC's ominous project would never fly. Agency waited till Friday afternoon to bury it— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) February 21, 2014