The bill is H.R. 985, To maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.
A bipartisan team of lawmakers has reintroduced a “media shield” bill that would prevent reporters from being forced to reveal confidential sources.
“The time has come for Congress to enact a federal media shield statute,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), one of the sponsors. “This is not about protecting reporters. It’s about protecting the public’s right to know.”
The House passed the bill overwhelmingly in 2008, but the Senate failed to take it up before the close of the 110th Congress.
Allbritton Communications Co., which owns Politico, is part of a larger coalition of media companies that backs the legislation.
The legislation faced fierce opposition from the Bush White House, which argued that it posed a potential national security risk and could impair the government’s ability to conduct investigations.
But Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a co-sponsor of the bill, argued Wednesday that “the absence of federal legislation protecting reporters’ sources limits the public’s access to information, which is vital to the functioning of a democratic society.”
The business community also had concerns that the legislation would strip companies of protection of their intellectual property, protecting thieves and monkeywrenchers. Those issues can be worked out, though, and the NAM certainly wants to play a positive role in the policy discussions.
And kudos, by the way, to Politico and Allbritton for mentioning its interest in this issue. The desire of elected officials to curry favor with the media who cover them is an important part of the bill’s story, and Allbritton’s transparency is appreciated.
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