Some may think that the quest for information about news programming by the FCC is a noble cause, but members of the Radio Television Digital News Association believe that even if the task could be accomplished simply and inexpensively – and it can’t – that the data would be useless anyway.
More than 100 RTDNA members contributed to a filing made by the organization for the FCC, and they pointed out that for starters, performing the data collection being requested would necessarily take time and resources from producing the very content the FCC is hoping to measure.
It is estimated that implementation of the program would require stations to hire a staffer in the $40K per year range just to keep up with the paperwork burden. RTDNA pointed out that this is a sum most stations just don’t have available in the current economy.
And in the end, the data would be useless. In the filing, Wiley Rein attorneys working with RTDNA wrote, “Moreover, the results of the RTDNA survey demonstrate that the form’s subjective categorizations guarantee inconsistency in reporting and will facilitate erroneous conclusions by those analyzing the information collected. The results would provide neither a basis for judging station performance against any known standard nor evidence upon which any defensible comparative analysis among stations across the nation could be conducted. In short, the survey results prove only that for a single week of programming, much time and expense—indeed, potentially crippling amounts of time and expense that would otherwise be devoted to producing quality local news and public affairs programming—will produce data that defies analysis.
On top of all that, RTDNA believes the program, if enacted, would not withstand a court challenge based on the First Amendment.
The full report can be read here.