The Federal Communications Commission has pulled the plug on its controversial “Critical Information Needs” survey that sparked a bipartisan uproar over government oversight of news gathering.
That’s a major victory for Ajit Pai, one of the agency’s Republican commissioners. The baby-faced 41-year-old attorney rocketed to national attention after he slammed the study in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in mid-February.
His words had their intended effect. After he characterized the study as a government attempt to meddle in news coverage and pressure news organizations into covering certain stories and ignoring others, Fox News gave the matter virtually wall-to-wall coverage.
The FCC last week threw out the CIN study’s most explosive portion, a plan to question reporters and editors in both broadcast and non-broadcast media about their editorial decisions and work environments, and said it would revise the study. On Friday it went a step further, terminating the study entirely.
But Pai isn’t calling off the dogs just yet. Now, he’s turning his attention to another issue brewing at the FCC: the agency’s push to adopt net-neutrality rules that would govern how Internet service providers run their networks.
The FCC is looking to clamp down on Internet providers like Verizon and Time Warner Cable, which want the freedom to manage their networks. That includes the freedom to charge certain providers for speedier access to their customers. The FCC wants to prevent deals like that, argues they give established companies an unfair advantage over their smaller competitors.
Pai says these rules would curb innovation rather than encourage it, and he is adamant that the agency keeps out of the fight. Like the battle over the CIN study, that pits Pai against FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler, who has made net neutrality a priority of his tenure at the FCC.