Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is press freedom on the chopping block?

I was very disturbed to read proposals from the Federal Trade Commission to subsidize 'traditional' media, tax more modern forms of media to raise the funds required for the subsidy (it's already been labeled the 'Drudge Tax'), and effectively manage (read: "govern") the field of journalism in general. The proposals struck me as potentially gravely damaging to the freedom of the press guaranteed in our Constitution.

Some of the details behind the proposals are now emerging . . . and they're even more frightening than the proposals themselves. Mike Riggs points out that the FTC's points are very similar to the positions advocated by a neo-Marxist advocate for change. He writes:

“Only government can implement policies and subsidies to provide an institutional framework for quality journalism.” Does that statement give you chills?

How about this one: “The news is not a commercial product. It is a public good, necessary for a self-governing society. Once we accept this, we can talk about the kind of media policies and subsidies we want.”

Or this one? “In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick-by-brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”

These are the sentiments of Robert McChesney, a self-professed neomarxist media scholar and the founder of the lobbying group and think tank Free Press. McChesney’s statements should worry you, perhaps even fill you with dread. Not because the rantings of a lefty professor are particularly scary in and of themselves, but because McChesney’s views are having a direct effect on the Obama administration’s policies on the media. Don’t believe it? Check out a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission entitled, “Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism.” Portions sounds like they were written by McChesney himself.

“I certainly think Free Press is making headway with the FTC,” said Adam Theirer, president of the Progress and Freedom Foundation. “They’ve been filing extensive comments with the FTC and they’ve gotten face-time at the FTC workshops. And if you look at the 47-page discussion document that the FTC just released, many of those ideas were borrowed directly from McChesney or Free Press.”

Those ideas, many of them culled from McChesney’s book The Death and Life of American Journalism (co-written with the Nation’s John Nichols), include:

* The establishment of a “‘journalism’ division of AmeriCorps” to “ensure that young people who love journalism will stay in the field”
* Providing “a tax credit to news organizations for every journalist they employ”
* “Establishing citizenship news vouchers”
* “Increasing postal subsidies for newspapers and periodicals”
* A tax on news aggregators, or even a policy to make news aggregation sites, like the Drudge Report, illegal
* The allocation of roughly $35 billion in public news subsidies
* A five percent tax on consumer electronics
* A ISP cell phone tax
* A revision of the tax code to allow for more nonprofit media

The group’s involvement in the FTC document might surprise people who thought Free Press was involved exclusively in pushing internet regulation known as net neutrality. But Free Press’s critics, and even some of its allies, say it has been working towards a much larger goal since its creation in 2002.

“Free Press hasn’t always been about net neutrality,” said a telecommunications expert with intimate knowledge of the group. “It’s just a diversion that’s been really lucrative for them. What they’re really about is having an order of magnitude more media under government control and implementing rules that disadvantage for-profit media.”

Theirer concurs. “Free Press started off not as the radical agitators on the broadband and net neutrality front, but by trying to regulate the press and trying to regulate the media,” Theirer said. “And really, that’s been their heart and soul, and the reason they got involved in the policy world. Of course, net neutrality plays into the battle–or as they call it, the ’struggle’–for media. But the end game for Free Press has always been effecting media policy, if not utterly controlling it.”

. . .

Nor is the FTC report the first time Free Press has influenced the Obama administration. Several former Free Press employees now work for Obama. Former policy director Ben Scott left Free Press last month for a gig at the State Department, where he’s now acting as an innovation advisor for the agency’s overseas media efforts.

. . .

“Essentially we have someone from a neomarxist media outfit setting America’s global policy on information issues at the State Department,” Theirer added.

Scott isn’t the only Free Press employee to land a government job under Obama. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has Free Press alumna Jen Howard on his staff. Before flacking for Genachowski, Howard was the spokesperson for Free Press. Since joining the FCC, she’s worked tirelessly to make sure her boss’s messaging lines up with that of her former employer.

There's more at the link.

Others (for example, Dick Morris and Adam Thierer) concur on the Marxist credentials of many of the Obama administration's media-policy point men, and have pointed to the danger posed by government subsidies for news media, and the threat they pose to media independence. More details are at the links provided.

I urge my readers to approach their Congressional representatives and Senators to express their disquiet and concern about these proposals. If they become law, our news media - already heavily biased - may become irretrievably part of 'the system', and their independence lost forever.


1 comment:

TheGraybeard said...

I find it amazing that they want a government run press. As if we don't have a century's worth of experience with that idea, and know that it's a loser.

"Free Press", like most leftist groups, is named the exact opposite of what they are. They want Pravda. As if ABC/NBC/CBS/PBS already aren't 90% there.

There's a story that the old USSR had two official news sources, Pravda (truth) and Izvestia (News). The running joke was that "In Izvestia there is no Pravda. In Pravda there is no Izvestia". Think it will be any different when any administration owns the news media here?