Lots of bad things happen when a constitutionally-limited national government is transformed into a Nanny State Leviathan.
But one of the worst is when federal bureaucrats — apparently convinced that the rest of us are too stupid to figure it out for ourselves — decide to conduct a "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs."
What that means is, as FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, the bureaucrats will:
"Ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about 'the process by which stories are selected' and how often stations cover 'critical information needs,' along with 'perceived station bias' and 'perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.'"
Fairness Doctrine is back
If any of that menu sounds familiar to older readers, it should because it's a summary of what the FCC used to do with its Fairness Doctrine.
Back in the dark ages when there was only three national broadcast news networks, the FCC exercised suffocating control over how the news was presented via its power to regulate broadcasting licenses.
None of their business
Why now is the FCC reinventing its discredited Fairness Doctrine wheel? Pai notes the official rationale is "eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry."
If that's so, one of the questions to be asked of newspaper reporters is whether they've ever suggested stories on "critical information" that were rejected by editors?
That question exposes what's really going on here: The FCC bureaucrats can't bear to know that somebody, somewhere in this country can cover the news without being told how by the nannies in Washington.
Fox News' Greta Van Susteren said Wednesday evening that she believes every media outlet should tell the FCC that how they cover the news is "none of its business."
Whether the rest of the media have as much backbone and common sense as Van Susteren will be revealed in coming months.
The good guys and the bad guys
Readers who want to know more about the FCC's wretched history of being used by presidents as a political weapon should read "The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment," written in 1976 by Fred Friendly, a former CBS News producer and chief executive.
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