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What Freedom of the Press?

In a February 10 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who occupies one of the Republican seats on the commission, broke the Freedom of the Pressnews that the Obama administration was planning to place inquisitors in the newsrooms of television and radio stations across the nation.

Titled the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the FCC program proposed to send researchers into TV and radio newsrooms to interview reporters, editors, and station managers about how they decide which stories to cover… or not cover. As Pai described it, the stated purpose of the CIN was to “ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about ‘the process by which stories are selected,’ and how often stations cover ‘critical information needs,’ along with ‘perceived station bias’ and ‘perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.’ ”      

As a guideline for their research, the FCC planners selected eight major categories for their investigators to delve into:

▪ Emergencies and risks – immediate and long term,

▪ Health and welfare – local health information and group specific health information,

▪ Education – the quality of local schools and choices available to parents,

▪ Transportation – available alternatives, costs, and schedules,

▪ Economic opportunities – job information, job training, and small business assistance,

▪ The environment – air and water quality and access to recreation,

▪ Civic information – the availability of civic institutions and opportunities to associate with others,

▪ Political – information about candidates at all relevant levels of local governance, and relevant public policy initiatives affecting communities and neighborhoods.

In addition, the FCC identified two broad areas of critical information needs associated with each of these categories: 1) Those fundamental to individuals in everyday life, and 2) Those that affect larger groups and communities.

But this is all pretty boring stuff. If the FCC was interested in conducting a study on which topics and which stories were most likely to put TV viewers and radio listeners to sleep, it’s pretty clear they were really onto something. There have always been much more interesting stories to report.

Although everyone but the fascist thugs of the Obama administration and the brain-dead rank-and-file of the Democratic Party were immediately horrified at what the FCC proposed, for the first time in history conservatives and the lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union threw their arms around each other. The thought of someone marching into the newsrooms of television and radio stations and demanding to know how they conducted their business was roundly denounced by conservatives and honest liberals alike.

Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative public interest law firm, cautioned:

The federal government has no place attempting to control the media, using the unconstitutional actions of repressive regimes to squelch free speech.

Without doubt, Sekulow had the Obama administration in mind when he cautioned us against “repressive regimes?”

Commentary magazine equated the proposed FCC study to the dangers of, say, a federal shield law.   The principal danger of a shield law is that, in order to legislate protections for a specific group… i.e. the “press”… it is first necessary to define that group. Therefore, the government would be placed in the position of deciding who is a journalist and who is not. As  Commentary  suggests, “The government could easily play favorites and have yet another accreditation – not unlike an FCC license – to hold over the heads of the press.” Given the Obama administration’s unprecedented use of the IRS to thwart its political opponents, is there any doubt that a shield law in their hands would be a very dangerous thing?

Commentary concluded that it is such rules that the FCC’s CIN calls to mind. It opens the door to increased government scrutiny of the press, with an implicit threat to a broadcaster’s license. It does so under the guise of “public service,” “quality control,” “fairness,” and other terms that usually hint the government is up to no good. Left unchallenged, the CIN would support the premise that “news judgment is the FCC’s business.”

The FCC quickly issued a statement saying that Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler was in agreement that “survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required.” An FCC spokesman added that “any suggestion that the FCC intends to regulate the speech of news media or plans to put monitors in America’s newsrooms is false.” 

However, what is most noticeable about all of the moral indignation directed at the FCC’s CIN program, whether from the left or from the right, is that it is all premised on the notion that we actually have a free press in the United States when, in fact, we do not. Few conservatives, the most “underserved population” of all, would deny that because of many decades of leftish propagandizing by the mainstream media, any opportunity to get inside the newsrooms at the major networks to expose them for the charlatans they are would be far too tempting to ignore.

For example, in 2004, CBS newsman Dan Rather created a national stir when he charged that George W. Bush had been AWOL during a part of his service in the Texas Air National Guard. Unfortunately for Rather, the documents used to support his charge turned out to be forgeries. The documents, which Rather claimed were memos from one of Bush’s senior officers, contained superscript characters which were not available on typewriters at the time. In truth, the documents that Rather hoped would ruin Bush’s reelection chances were created on a modern computer using Microsoft Word software, and artificially aged to make them appear authentic.

Nevertheless, the networks and major print media devoted hundreds of hours of airtime and countless lines of newsprint to the bogus story. It would have been interesting to learn how the networks decided to spend that much time and effort on the phony Bush AWOL story.

Conversely, just three years later, when it became evident that Sen. Barack Obama would be a viable Democratic candidate for the presidency, legal scholars complained that, because Obama failed to meet the basic requirements to be a “natural born Citizen,” as required by Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, he would be ineligible to serve. And although there was ample evidence to support the charge, the mainstream media all but ignored the story.

And when the Maricopa County, Arizona, Cold Case Posse, under the direction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, provided irrefutable proof that the long form birth certificate uploaded to the White House website on April 27, 2011, was a poorly crafted forgery, that his draft registration card was a forged document, and that his Social Security number was stolen and would not pass a simple Social Security Administration E-verify test, the left-leaning newsmen of ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC looked the other way. They simply ignored the story.  

It would be interesting to have editors, producers, and reporters at our major networks explain why a few days absence by George W. Bush from his Air National Guard duty station should be a major national news story, while the constitutional ineligibility and the forged documentation of the country’s first black president deserved nothing more than to be swept under the rug.  

These are not isolated incidents; they happen every day of the week, on every conceivable kind of issue, foreign and domestic. The only constant is the fact that the reporting is almost always slanted in favor of liberal/socialist orthodoxy and against traditional conservative views.

Given that so much of the Obama administration invites favorable comparison to Hitler’s Third Reich, it was only to be expected that the FCC’s CIN study would quickly attract comparisons. Marilyn Assenheim, writing for the  Patriot Update, suggests that, “What (Obama) is establishing is a redo of historical absolutism. The German National Socialist government could not have aspired to better.”

Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, reminds us that “Arbitrary power is ugly and vicious, regardless of what pious rhetoric goes with it. Freedom is not free. You have to fight for it or lose it.” “But,” he asks, “is our generation up to fighting for it?”

Humorist Frank J. Fleming has said:

  I think Obama is learning. By the end of his presidency he'll have gone from less than useless to achieving parity with uselessness... In America, we love rooting for the underdogs, so maybe a gigantic decline in our nation is just what we need to believe in ourselves again.

Perhaps a close brush with fascist dictatorship will be enough to wake us all up to the realities of the terrible dangers that Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi represent.

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