Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

When Will Free Press Actually Begin to Advocate for Freedom of the Press?

A recent story in the National Law Journal (3/2/2010) about the FCC's on-going broadcast ownership proceedings includes this gem from Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner, "The [cross-ownership] ban remains vitally important. Lifting it would mean consolidation and cutting reporters - less local news and less diversity of opinion." Perhaps Mr. Hunter has not noticed, but maintaining the ban on the common ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations has not exactly been a boon for journalists.

Stories about newspapers closing, broadcasters eliminating news departments, and journalists being laid off have become commonplace, but because there a few diehards like Mr. Hunter who want to continue to believe that stand-alone news operations can thrive in a highly competitive and fragmented media market, here's one more: The LA Times reported this week that ABC News plans to close all of its news bureaus (except in Washington) and to halve the number of its domestic correspondents.

Yes, indeed, Mr. Hunter, we all should be shaking in our shoes that the monolithic ABC News is a threat to diversity and will likely come to dominate everything we hear, see, and read if we're not careful. Citizen Kane? Citizen Kan't is a more appropriate description. It is not 1970 any longer, and there is no threat now or on the horizon that any single news operation or organization will be able to control the flow of information in America.

To the contrary, it is precisely the inability of any one organization to aggregate sufficient paying users to support a full-fledged journalistic operation that is killing the news business. There can be no assurance that eliminating the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban would do anything to stem the bleeding, but isn't it worth a try? Why not allow an organization like ABC News to experiment with a different business model based on repurposing content across platforms? More fundamentally, is it not a core First Amendment concern when government rules are actively suffocating news organizations? Should not an organization like Free Press be outraged that the government will not, in fact, allow the Press to be Free? I know I won't hold my breath.

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 3:25 PM | Mass Media , Media Regulation