But a sizeable portion are not fazed at threat to freedom of the press
A large majority of Americans stand in line with the First Amendment, saying that it is not the role of the government to monitor the output of news organisations. However, according to a new poll, almost 30 percent did not express that view.
The survey, conducted by Rasmussen, found that 71 percent of voters were unhappy with the notion that the government should police the media. The question was raised in response to a White House plan to place spies in newsrooms, details of which were leaked by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai last week.
A further 76 percent, according to the poll, said they were at least somewhat concerned that the FCC’s proposal to analyse news content could lead to state controlled news that pushes government agendas. Almost half said they were very Concerned that this could occur.
However, 18 percent said that they do think it is the government’s job to monitor news output, with a further 11 percent saying they were not sure. That means that close to a third of Americans either do not understand, or do not care about the notion of a free press, a right enshrined in the US Constitution.
Even more respondents to the survey, 38 percent, indicated that they would be happy to see government mandated “equal commentary”, in other words a “fairness doctrine” mandate that all stations supply an equal amount of conservative and liberal political commentary.
Only 49 percent said that such a government mandate was disagreeable. More Democrats favour the idea than oppose it, while a majority of Republicans and Independents oppose the idea.
FCC Commissioner Pai told Fox News that journalists and news industry leaders are worried about being subjected to government coercion regarding the plan which the government agency described as part of an effort to meet the public’s “critical information needs.”
“A lot of folks that I’ve heard from from the industry are telling me that they are worried about the inadvertent coercion that might happen if the FCC says ‘look we’re just asking questions’,” said Pai.
The FCC has since backed off the plan, which would have dispatched researchers working on behalf of the federal agency “to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano described the plan to have bureaucrats monitor newsrooms as a “radical new era of tyranny”.