Knoxville — Last may, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a program in which it would bring people into America's newsrooms. A field test for this program is scheduled to launch in South Carolina in the spring, but Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley believes this is a violation of the First Amendment.
Grassley made the comments on Thursday, Feb. 20, during his weekly "Capitol Hill Report," an unrehearsed question and answer exchange among Grassley, the Journal-Express and a radio reporter in another part of Iowa.
The FCC proposed in May a Multi Market Study of Critical Information Needs. This process includes sending agents to grill editors, reporters, and electronic media representatives about how they choose which stories to run. According to a Wall Street Journal editorial, the FCC has eight categories of topics which it believes are critical information needs. Journalists and media representatives will be asked about their "news philosophy" and how they report news the community needs.
Participation in the FCC's program is "voluntary." However, television and radio stations which operate using the public airwaves are licensed to do so by the FCC. These licenses must be renewed every eight years. Grassley believes that news outlets should not participate in the program as a means of legal opposition to potential encroachment on the First Amendment.
"This is an opportunity for a private citizen to say, 'I've had enough of this big government,'" Grassley said. He believes that if more average Americans stand against this, it will have a greater impact on any opposition movement than a letter from himself would.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."