FCC Admits Newsroom Monitors “Overstepped the Bounds” of its Authority – Shelves Proposal

Last week I told you about a new Obama Administration proposal to place FCC monitors in newsrooms across America.

The plan, first exposed by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, was to have government monitors looking over the shoulders of Christian and conservative talk radio editors, demanding to know the “news philosophy” of reporters, and seeking to ensure that what the Obama Administration predetermined as “critical information” was disseminated to the American public.

The reaction of the American people was swift and decisive.  Callers flooded the ACLJ’s radio program, over 80,000 Americans signed a petition at ACLJ.org in less than 72 hours, and Rush Limbaugh even read my RedState post on air.

The response of the American people was as overwhelming as the gravity of the constitutional danger that this proposal posed.

The FCC had no choice but to respond.  First the FCC said that it would further “review” the matter but promised to press forward with the program.  Yet, in a complete policy reversal, the FCC shelved the program by Friday afternoon.  It even admitted that the proposal “overstepped the bounds” of its authority.

It’s a stunning reminder of the power of the people.  When Americans stand up, we can push back against the worst of government intrusions.

ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow and I wrote an Op-Ed for the Washington Times explaining the significance of this victory:

A First Amendment victory over an intrusive federal government doesn’t come along every day, but thanks to a deafening outcry from the American people, the Obama administration has just backed down from an unconstitutional plan to put monitors in newsrooms in a dramatic fashion. . . .

This is a huge victory not only for freedom of the press, but for freedom of speech. The federal government has no place monitoring and intimidating the press, Christian radio stations and conservative media.

Monitoring and intimidating the media lies far outside the FCC’s congressional mandate, much less the bounds of constitutionally protected freedom of speech and of the press. Thankfully, the FCC agrees — for now.

You can read that article here, where we also explain how the FCC’s proposed questions were eerily similar to those the IRS demanded of conservative groups.

One thing is for sure; the shelving of this unconstitutional newsroom monitoring program is a monumental victory, but we must remain vigilant that it never returns, in any form.  You can rest assured that at the ACLJ that is exactly what we plan to do.

Matthew Clark is Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and three boys in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.