FCC commissioner: Suspension of newsroom monitor program a 'victory for the First Amendment'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 21, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a FOX News alert. A U.S. government program to put monitors in newsroom derailed. That means President Obama and the FCC will not recruit a new police force - at least not for now. The FCC suspending its newsroom monitor program after the FCC commissioner who blew the whistle went ON THE RECORD.

Commissioner Ajit Pai joins us again. Commissioner, this is good news, I suspect, based on what you wrote in your op-ed.

AJIT PAI, FCC COMMISSIONER: I think it is. This is a big victory for the First Amendment. FCC announced it won't send researchers from the government to newsrooms across the country. I think that's a good thing for all citizens.

VAN SUSTEREN: You were one of five bosses of the FCC. Was this idea ever even voted on by the commission?

PAI: It was not, no.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who came up with this idea? Do you have any idea?

PAI: That's one of the questions that I have, but unfortunately we don't have any insight into the process by which the study came about. But the good news is, going forward, the current chairman, Tom Wheeler, announced that any study that FCC does in any of these markets is not going to require media owners, news directors or journalists to answer any of these kinds of intrusive questions about editorial judgment.

VAN SUSTEREN: I applaud you. But I must say I'm a little bit taken aback by the commissioner now saying, or the chairman, because it is not -- it is a no-brainer. It's sort of under his command. And what he said today, he said in the statement released by the FCC, "Concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate." If that isn't the most feckless statement about this in terms of this butchering of the First Amendment?

PAI: This is a city inhabited by lawyers. I think if you read between the lines, what I take out of that statement is that he's acknowledged that study design really did come too close to the line when it comes to intruding on one of the core First Amendment principles, which is --


VAN SUSTEREN: Too close to the line or over the line?

PAI: My view own is over the line. I'm glad to take that concession as a victory. I will remain vigilant in the future if there are future initiatives that FCC tries that would go close to the line or over the line. I will call it out as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm with you that it's over the line. I think it is way over the line. So I guess I'm worried if there are some people at the FCC that thinks this is close to the line.

PAI: The good news is that the American people have really made their voices heard and I --

VAN SUSTEREN: But only because you -- if you hadn't written that op- ed, we wouldn't have seen it and no voices would have been heard. So it is stunning that everybody at FCC, that nobody sort of thought, other than you, that something should be done about this.

PAI: I certainly can't take credit for this issue. You have used your platform to raise awareness of this issue. I've heard from hundreds of Americans across the country on e-mail, on Twitter, who express their own concern. The come from a cross of the ideological spectrum. I think that's one of the good things about this dialogue is that it is illustrated that everyone, regardless of where they come from in a political issue, shares that bedroom understanding of what our Constitution means when it says, "The press shall be free."

VAN SUSTEREN: You are a very nice man. You see it as half full. I see it as half empty. I'm scandalized that anybody at FCC, whose job it is to be aware of the First Amendment, that it would have gotten any place.

I'm curious, was this a bid contract, do you know? Someone got paid some money.

PAI: I don't have any insight into the contracting process as well as the way in which the study was design but that is something others may want to look into.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is a big report, 78 pages, and somebody paid for it. But anyway, Commissioner, thank you. And once again, thank you for the op-ed. Thank you, sir.

PAI: Thank you for having me.