Broadcasters to Office of Government Information Services: Start Slowly

Suggestions Offered to National Archives and Records Administration on How to Handle Freedom of Information Act Requests

Broadcasters and others are weighing in on how to break the government logjam of unanswered Freedom of Information Act requests, which they argued means not trying to do too much, too soon. (All of the recommendations can be found on the Sunshine in Government Initiative’s Web site.)

The Sunshine in Government Initiative -- which includes the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television News Directors Association -- Friday released recommendations to the National Archives and Records Administration for setting up the Office of Government Information Services.

The OGIS is part of an effort to make the government more responsive to such requests from journalists and ordinary citizens. It will mediate disputes over requests to help ease the process and avoid expensive trips to court by media companies seeking to get the process going. It was created by Congress last year but does not yet have any money appropriated to run it.

The initiative is recommending that the OGIS start small and that the NARA create criteria for initial actions that focus on cases that "both reach many requesters and avoid overwhelming the mediation system."

Journalist groups are troubled by a Bush administration effort to move funding for OGIS from the Archives to the Justice Department, which they see as a built-in conflict given that Justice is also charged with defending government agencies in litigation brought by journalists and others filing FOIA requests.