Blair speech reveals the universal instinct of government to control news. Old Media did a rotten job fending them off. New Media must act now if they expect to do better. 6/13/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Blair, Government.
The indispensable Jeff Jarvis analyzes Tony Blair’s final whine about his media coverage, which includes a chilling call for greater government control of news. Not that this is terribly surprising. The history of news is also the history of government trying to control what is said about it, with the formation of America and the adoption of the First Amendment being among the few, glorious victories for the People.
Unfortunately, U.S. Journalism has done much to squander those great victories. Despite their boasts of being champions of free speech, the reality is that mainstream media have largely served as lapdogs for government. Journalists never challenged the government system that required broadcasters to demonstrate they were airing “responsible programming” to renew their broadcast licenses. It was not until unregulated cable TV emerged that we could view programming with full-throated political debate. Journalists never challenged the requirement that radio stations devote precious air time to opposing views (the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”). It was not until it was allowed to lapse in 1987 that we could enter an era of talk radio with its spirited, left-to-right political debate. And, most journalists shamelessly promoted the McCain-Feingold Act, a bi-partisan conspiracy that has made it a felony for the public, but not themselves, to use the airwaves to criticize public officials in the 60 days before a federal election.
If the New Media wants to avoid the sins of its Old Media fathers, they must fight to keep the government’s hands off the Internet. Currently, the New Media is not engaged in this battle even though the Trojan Horse of government control is at their gates and ready to be rolled-in. On the outside it is the seemingly benign and beneficial “Net Neutrality” legislation. But on the inside, it contains thousands and thousands of politicians and bureaucrats waiting to be unleashed so they can make it the business of the federal government to regulate the Internet. If passed, regulations on web site content would surely follow. Ultimately, New Media attack dogs would become castrated lapdogs, just like so much of the Old Media.