The American Center for Law and Justice is launching a petition in protest of the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to place “monitors” in television and newspaper newsrooms.
The ACLJ reports that more than 55,000 people have already signed on.
The FCC idea calls for the federal bureaucracy to place “researchers” in “newsrooms to determine how news organizations decide which stories to run.”
The FCC move was made public in a Wall Street Journal commentary commentary by Obama FCC appointee Ajis Pai.
In an exclusive interview with WND, ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow called the plan nothing less than the Obama administration attempting to regulate and manage the news.
“This looks like another attempt at intimidating the media and the news to have them cover the stories they want covered and to not cover and speak out on things they don’t like. This comes out of their interest in coverage of the Affordable Care Act, the economy, the size of government and to not cover issues like Benghazi,” Sekulow said.
Sekulow said the issue is bigger than television and newspapers.
“When you get to radio, you have stations that carry Hannity and Limbaugh, then there are Christian radio stations that carry our program, you can imagine why this can be seen as another attempt to stop the coverage of issues from the perspective that we know the left has such disdain for,” Sekulow said.
He said the timing of the FCC project is not a coincidence.
“This project is coming at a time when the media has been under an unprecedented assault and intimidation already. That’s what happened to James Rosen at Fox News, you know, his mother being tracked. And then the IRS on the AP phone records,” Sekulow said.
He pointed to evidence that the world recognizes the decline in American First Amendment freedoms.
“The U.S. is now 46th in the Reporters Without Borders analysis ranking. This is a country that prides itself on freedom of speech for all viewpoints and that freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution,” Sekulow said.
Sekulow commended Pai.
“The FCC commissioner who wrote about this for the WSJ did so to alert people. A lot of this looks very innocuous on its face. It says it’s a market research project for critical information needs. But you have to look at what they’re labeling as a critical need,” Sekulow said.
“Further, they call this market research and they call the monitors researchers. But this is not why the FCC exists.”
Pai has not responded to WND’s request for comment.
Sekulow said the FCC project is an unconstitutional government power play.
“This kind of monitoring by the government, the pressure, saying we’re going to track you; we’re going to track the kind of stories you write; and, what issues you’re covering. On top of that, we’re going to interview your reporters, and, by the way, we oversee your licensing.
“You can see a very blunt, real violation of the First Amendment. While the FCC is saying that’s not what they were intending, you don’t get that from the 77-page study design guide,” Sekulow said. “They’re trying to include newspapers in this too even though they have no oversight over newspapers.”
Sekulow noted the plan calls for five interviews at 56 television and radio stations around the country for a total of about 280 interviews.
The sampling portion entails gathering content by reading, watching and listening for a period of weeks.
“Then they were going to have what they were calling a constructive week of programming, where they review a week’s worth of news,” Sekulow said.
FCC regulators have tried to portray television and radio station participation as voluntary, he noted.
“The FCC said this was voluntary, but remember that a broadcaster has to have an FCC license even to exist, and they have to renew their license every eight years. So voluntary has to be written with an asterisk.”
He said it’s not like a university or PhD student who is requesting to come in and ask some questions.
“This is coming from the FCC where they are focusing on certain cities like Columbia, S.C.,” Sekulow said.
The impact of such actions could be huge, he said.
“The monitors are real; they’re called researchers by the FCC. What they were going to do is conduct a series of interviews with newsrooms, different stations, and find out about how they gather the news, their sourcing, the politics behind it, and if there’s any perceived bias at the station,” Sekulow said.
“They also would ask if any editors stop them from doing stories they think are important, but I’m sure every reporter believes the story he or she is working on is important.”