FCC scraps study of newsrooms

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scrapping a controversial study about newsroom practices.

“The FCC will not move forward with the Critical Information Needs study," an agency spokesman said Friday, referring to an FCC study that would have involved going into U.S. newsrooms to examine their editorial practices.

The backlash to the study grew after a Republican on the FCC, Ajit Pai, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal warning that the agency "plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run."

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Responding to the backlash, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced earlier this month said the agency would be scaling the study back to avoid the more controversial elements, including probing journalists and media owners.

Earlier this week, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn — who helped craft the study as acting chairman of the agency last year — defended the research, saying the ultimate goal was to better understand, not influence, the communications industries it regulates.

On Friday, the FCC spokesman said the agency will be considering other steps to learn about the news industry.

"The commission will reassess the best way to fulfil its obligation to Congress to identify barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses," he said.

The proposed study drew harsh criticism from Republicans in the agency and on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) — chairman on the House Commerce Committee on Communications — who introduced a bill earlier this month to prohibit the FCC from conducting similar studies in the future.

In a statement Wednesday, Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly called for the study to be canceled. 

"If any value was ever to come from this particular exercise, that ship has sailed," he said. "It is probably time to cancel the CIN study for good.”