Frank LoMonte Comments on FCC Press Access Limitations
Frank LoMonte, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Brechner Center for Freedom of Information director, is quoted in “As Pandemic Wears On, FCC Press Access Limited” published in Communications Daily on March 17.
The article addresses the Brechner Center’s “government gagged” research about prohibitions on government employees speaking freely with the news media.
According to LoMonte, FCC policies don’t appear conducive to engaging with the public via news stories.
Fully communicating isn’t a “canned press release from a professional P.R. spokesperson,” said LoMonte. “If you’re confident that your agency is making valid decisions that you can stand behind, then you should be willing to stand behind them publicly. If you’re not comfortable answering questions about the policies you make, or if you don’t think the public is entitled to know why government decisions are made, then maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.”
LoMonte said that other FCC communications standards that predate the pandemic might not stand up in a court.
“A federal agency has no authority to tell a journalist ‘don’t pick up the telephone and call one of our employees, or we’ll punish you,’” LoMonte said. While it’s permissible for government employees to decline to answer questions, it violates the First Amendment “to forbid employees from discussing work-related matters with the news media,” other than requiring that ‘sensitive information’ be kept confidential.”