Media outlets definition
The nonprofit watchdog group Cause of Action is challenging the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) decision that it is not a member of the media, and asking the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court’s ruling in favor of the FTC.
Two years ago, the FTC denied requests from Cause of Action for fee waivers on several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, saying it did meet the qualifications because it was not a news media outlet.
Cause of Action appealed the denial, but the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of the FTC in 2013, finding that the watchdog group did not qualify as media because it was insufficiently disseminating news to the public.
In its latest appeal, Cause of Action says the FTC’s decision “presents a cautionary tale about the harm done when agencies use fee waiver categorizations to chill the government accountability activities of nascent nonprofit organizations in the age of new media, especially when those nonprofits, like Cause of Action (COA) here, criticize agency actions.”
The watchdog group also argues the lower court’s ruling conflicts with the Open Government Act of 2007, which mandates that federal agencies and courts recognize “alternative media.” The act also defines a news representative as “any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience.”
Cause of Action also points out that the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., recognized a similar watchdog group as a member of the media in a 2003 decision.
“The FTC’s repeated denial of our status as a news media organization threatens all new media and nonprofit news organizations that seek fee waivers for FOIA requests, ” Cause of Action president Dan Epstein said in a statement. “Simply because the FTC feared that unfavorable information would be made public, we were unfairly denied access. If every agency behaves like the FTC, it will be devastating to those who fight for government accountability and transparency. 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