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Dangerous Precursors to Censorship: Government Stepping In

During President Obama’s election bid, the fairness doctrine garnered some of the spotlight.  Conservatives warned that the doctrine would censor the media and filter it of any messages the administration did not agree with.  The liberals.. well, that’s what they were hoping would happen.

Liberal media is facing the end of an era.  The three-network liberal oligopoly that owned nightly news broadcasts for decades is serving fewer and fewer news consumers, the left-biased newspaper industry is losing papers one-after-another, liberal radio shows such as Air America have been falling off the dial due to lack of interest and MSNBC’s heavily left-leaning messaging is falling on deaf ears.  The most-obvious liberal mass-media outlet, MSNBC, is facing ratings shortfalls and they are not improving.  MSNBC’s viewership is one third of Fox News and losing ground constantly.  From Mediabsitro.com:

All MSNBC programming was down double digits compared to Q1 of ’09. Monday to Sunday, MSNBC’s primetime for the quarter was down -15% in Total Viewers compared to Q1 of ’09 (-22% demo). “Countdown” was down -26% in Total Viewers (-42% demo), and “Rachel Maddow” was down -25% (-38% demo).

America is a right-of-center country and it should be no surprise that they prefer messaging that is in-line with their core beliefs.  Unions, community organizations, and other liberal groups would prefer the old days of liberal networks and print media being the only mass-media available.  To push for a return, those groups are asking the FCC to censor what we see and hear.  It’s clear that these groups believe that people are too stupid to discern good news from hate speech and that the government will need to do that for them:

A coalition of more than 30 organizations argue in a letter to the FCC that the Internet has made it harder for the public to separate the facts from bigotry masquerading as news. .. The groups argue the Internet has made it harder for the public to separate the facts from bigotry masquerading as news..

Although MSNBC is an obvious underdog to other less-liberal TV news outlets, it’s still an outlet and has opinion shows to balance those of more Conservative programming.  NPR isn’t dead by any stretch of the imagination and offers some left-of-center programming in that medium – the far left find that NPR isn’t near left enough, ya’ can’t please everyone).  Why the need to label anything they disagree with as hate speech?  Because, that’s what Alinskey told them to do.

If one government assault on new media wasn’t enough, the Federal Trade Commission is chiming in.  Now why would so many in the government, led by those chosen by President Obama, all be working towards the same end?  Mull it over.

The FTC published a discussion memo which it hopes to lead discussions on how government policy could save the print media industry.  Even though the introduction tries to say that all forms of media are equal, the entire memo documents the plight of newspapers.

The memo has some strange motives.  In one section, the letter actually discounts the tactic of taking newspapers to an online only model:

..many newspapers still receive approximately 90% of their advertising revenues from print advertising, with somewhat less than 10% coming from online advertising. Print advertising revenues still account for more than half of newspapers’ revenues. Thus, even though, in theory, newspapers could move to online-only and save approximately 50% of their costs (due to printing and distribution), such a move would not make economic sense.

What a catastrophically misguided assessment that is.  If a newspaper went online only, their print advertising revenues should convert at better than a 0% rate.  Does this socialistic, self-preoccupied gang of over-thinkers really believe that a newspaper that goes online couldn’t get at least a small percentage of their local, online ad customers to pay for online exposure?  Secondly, that comment dictates that they would only gain savings from print and distribution.  What about a modern, non-office workforce?  Think of all the office space not necessary as journalists, editors, formatters, ad salespersons, etc all don’t need a desk.  Think how small the office would be, how furniture costs, computer, phone, electricity… one could go on.   This comment is meant to provide protection for the dearest of liberal special interests .. unions.  If newspapers go all online, newspapers will have little use for union labor, and a work-at-home workforce will be nearly impossible to organize.

Another questionable entry states that newspapers are struggling do to manpower issues:

Staff downsizing has caused significant losses of news coverage. For example, coverage of state houses and state perspectives on news from Washington, D.C. has declined, as has coverage of local government issues, foreign affairs, and specialty beats such as science and the arts.

Imagine how many journalists they could add if they didn’t have to afford those expensive unionized print and distribution employees.

Ultimately, liberal media realize that they need a government bail-out.  The free-market system isn’t working for them (the demand part).  If they need to abuse federal hate speech laws to get a hand-out, they have no problem with that at all.

Next the memo seeks to demonstrate how news media that has gone online has not been able to create a sustainable business model.

Although dozens of newly created online news sites have found sufficient funds to keep going through the early years of their existence, virtually no sites have yet found a sustainable business model that would allow them to survive without some form of funding from non-profit sources.

Well this article demonstrates that not only did a formerly print newspaper go online, it’s online arm is much more profitable:

The Wall Street Journal Online has 731,000 paid subscribers, up 5.2% from the previous quarter, at $84/year. Yes, that’s a $61.4 million annual revenue stream.

Of course, liberals aren’t even going to discuss the success of the Wall Street Journal, they don’t believe it matches their messaging.  Then again, that may be why it’s also successful.  Well, what about The Guardian in the U.K.?  It turned a profit in … 2006!  It is not impossible to create profitable online news content, it just requires that there is a market for your style of content.

Now that the memo has worked so hard to put it’s ill-conceived justifications, here come the brain-trust that is the FTC’s recommendations.

Thus, this speaker suggests amending the copyright laws to create a content license fee (perhaps $5.00 to $7.00) to be paid by every Internet Service Provider on eaaccount it provides. He suggests creating a new division of the Copyright Office, would operate under streamlined procedures and would collect and distribute these fees. Copyright owners who elect to participate would agree to periodically submit records of their digitized download records to the Copyright Office.

Sure, at first, the submission of digitized download records is only those who “elect to participate”.  What happens when the government sees the benefit in having everyone do this?  Not everyone wants big brother watching everything they do online.  Highly-critical Conservative media could well be silenced by fears that submitted critiques of the government may bring down the wrath of the U.S. Government.  It could limit the “fair-use” of copyright material as fears of accidentally stepping over some subjective line could bring lawsuits or worse if the content isn’t favorable to the government.

Another recommendation should be no real surprise, give more direct federal dollars (read: your money) to *drum roll* NPR:

Public radio and television should be substantially reoriented to provide significant local news reporting in every community served by public stations and their Web sites. This requires urgent action by and reform of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, increased congressional funding and support for public media news reporting, and changes in mission and leadership for many public stations across the country

In the same FTC memo, the point had just been made that these subsidies get too expensive and are unsustainable:

Since that time, the amount of subsidies for newspapers and periodicals has substantially decreased. According to some, if the federal government in 2008 had “devoted the same percentage of the Gross Domestic Product to press subsidies as it did in the early 1840s, it would have spent some $30 billion to spawn journalism.

Several of the remaining proposals are just ways for the greedy government elitists to get their hands on more money:

  • Tax credits for hiring journalists
  • Citizen news vouchers only payable to non-profit media sources
  • Journalism grants to universities
  • Increase the postal subsidies for newspapers – remember that $30 Billion umber a few paragraphs ago?  This was the subsidy that would have caused it.
  • Tax on airwaves – had to know this would come
  • Additional taxes on consumer electronics – not sure what my PS3 has to do with journalism..
  • Spectrum tax – a tax on the way they sell the airwaves they are already planning to tax – these guys have no limits
  • Advertising taxes
  • ISP-cell tax – I think this is a tax on mobile phone data plans

Giant surprise, they have proposed more taxes than good ideas.  Give the money to the government so they can fix private entities.  That’s been working.  These taxes are intended to allow the government to funnel more money into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (e.g. NPR).  In fact, this whole memo is a brainstorming document for how the government can get left-leaning, union-fed news media to be popular again.

People are going to watch what they want to watch, read what they want to read, and as they become more informed, the majority are turning away from the.  This tactic is just another attempt to force-feed the public their viewpoint.  If readers, listeners and viewers believed their commentary, they wouldn’t be in trouble.

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  1. Giant surprise, they have proposed more taxes than good ideas. Give the money to the government so they can fix private entities. That’s been working.