Obamacare for News Reporting: Will Government Censors Be Placed in America’s Newsrooms?

by | Feb 18, 2014 | Free Speech, Healthcare

Individual liberty, freedom and private property — including the most precious right of free speech – are not frozen in place forever. Government will always test its limits and watch how we respond.

What if I told you that the Obama Administration has plans to send government authorities into the newsrooms of Fox News, CNN or even the New York Times, to watch and inspect them? Would you think I’m lying?

Investors.com reports on 2/13/14: The FCC has cooked up a plan to place “researchers” in U.S. newsrooms, supposedly to learn all about how editorial decisions are made. Any questions as to why the U.S. is falling in the free press rankings?

Ajit Pai, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission, warned this week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that a plan to dispatch researchers into radio, television and even newspaper newsrooms called the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” is still going forward, despite the grave danger it presented to the First Amendment.

Pai warned that under the rationale of increasing minority representation in newsrooms, the FCC, which has the power to issue or not issue broadcasting licenses, would dispatch its “researchers” to newsrooms across America to seek their “voluntary” compliance about how news stories are decided, as well as “wade into office politics” looking for angry reporters whose story ideas were rejected as evidence of a shutout of minority views.

Why do we even have a Federal Communications Commission in the first place? Supposedly (some claim), it was created to protect the property rights of radio broadcast (and later television) owners, to ensure signals were not jammed, and the like.

But the premise of the FCC is that government essentially owns the airwaves and signals which transmit broadcasts, and (by implication at least) is responsible for their content. This places the very existence of the FCC at odds with the First Amendment. Case in point: The “Fairness Doctrine.”

For years, until the Reagan Administration ended it in 1987, the “Fairness Doctrine” of the FCC required private radio and television station owners to provide equal time for opposing points of view. Under that FCC rule, talk radio as we know it today could not have evolved. If a station has a Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity on the air for three hours, then that same station would have to air a three-hour show with a pro-Obama host, whether people listened or not. (The obvious alternative? Simply don’t air Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, the all-but-explicit goal of those who support this policy’s restoration.)

Since Obama came into office, many who agree with his positions have demanded the Fairness Doctrine be reinstated. Obama reportedly opposed it, but clearly had other ideas. Now we know what those ideas are: Sending government “researchers” into private newsrooms to seek “voluntary compliance” with government wishes. And you think I exaggerate when I refer to Obama as a fascist?

Given the tentative and vague limits placed on FCC powers in the first place, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Perhaps many of Obama’s predecessors didn’t have the nerve. Perhaps some didn’t even want censorship, even if it favored their own political policies and views. Obama feels no such restraint.

Obama’s plan to put “voluntary researchers” in privately-owned newsrooms rests on the assumption that government owns these newsrooms. It only can do this because the FCC gives legal legitimacy to this claim. It’s really no different from what the government has done with health care. Government still permits doctors and health insurance companies to “function,” i.e. to go through the motions of acting like private entities. But every action they take is at the behest of the federal government. They only act with government permission. If government stays out of a medical matter (a rarity after this law takes effect), it’s only because the government permits it. Not because it’s an individual’s right to be left alone.

Either you’re sovereign over your mind, your body and your property — or you’re not. If we all are, then government would not even attempt such a policy as sending officials into media newsrooms. Any attempt of the government to do so would be met with widespread outrage and protest.

What did the National Association of Broadcasters say in reply to this power grab? Did they say: “Hey, stay the hell out of our newsrooms!”? Not a chance. According to Investors.com: The reaction from the National Association of Broadcasters was mealy-mouthed. The FCC “should reconsider” “qualitative” sections of its study, it wrote.

From “Give me liberty or give me death!” … to this?

Do Hollywood celebrities and other prominent celebrities rush to protest? They surely would if a Republican President did such a thing (and well they should). Where are they when Obama attempts it? People no longer think in principle. They don’t ask, “What business does government have in private newsrooms?” Their only concern is whether their guy orders the troops, or the other guy. Force and power, not principle, now govern the mindsets of too many Americans.

Individual liberty, freedom and private property — including the most precious right of free speech –  are not frozen in place forever. Government will always test its limits and watch how we respond. A lackluster people who act indifferent to what their government does are getting what they ask for, no matter how much they deny it. It can happen here, just as much as anywhere else. If the people are asleep, they’ll get what’s coming to them.

The lack of response to this story should be a major headline itself. One wonders if the government “researchers” will permit it. Or maybe they will “ask” their subjects to “voluntarily” tone it down a bit.

Will the Internet be next? Stay tuned.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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