Meddling in media

John Edwards wants the government to stop Murdoch’s purchase of Dow Jones and not just because of the devil consolidation but also because of ideology:

“The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media — all qualities which are pretty hard to subscribe to Fox News and News Corp. The reality is that Americans deserve more news outlets — not fewer. It’s time for all Democrats, including those running for president, to stand up and speak out against this merger and other forms of media consolidation.

“Moreover, given Fox News’ consistent efforts to demean Democrats — they have attacked the character of Senator Obama, Vice President Gore, and many others — no Democrat running for president should accept campaign money from top News Corp executives….The time has come for Democrats to stop pretending to be friends with the very people who demonize the Democratic Party.”

It is not government’s role to punish speakers for their speech. That is the very essence of the First Amendment. It is constitutionally offensive and politically cynical for him to oppose this merger because he disagrees with the buyer. What kind of precedent is that? What happens in 20 years or so, when the Republicans get back in control, and they stop the New York Times Company from doing business because they don’t like its politics.

It’s even more cynical than that. Edwards is just trying to show up Hillary Clinton for getting money from News Corp. executives, including Democrats there. He is demonizing the company and it outlets and led the revolt against the Democrats appearing on a Fox-aired debate. I made fun of the Democrats for being scared of Fox and I’m making fun of the Republicans for being scared of YouTube and CNN.

Politics is about disagreement. If you can’t stand that much heat, then how the hell can you deal with the disagreements that matter, with the people who are said to hate us so much?

This is silliness but dangerous silliness. Stay away from the press Mr. Edwards, and restrain yourself from cynical censorship.

  • http://cookingupastory.com Fred Gerendasy

    Jeff:

    I have to disagree with you, entirely. This is not about John Edwards, per se, or even Rupert Murdoch, it’s about the real problem of media consolidation in this country.

    Common Cause is a respected non-partisan group that has taken a strong stand against the continued consolidation of media companies across all platforms. It’s an irony that you of all people who seem to champion the value and importance of the little guy, would fail to see the obvious dangers to society (including those who wish to have a voice on the internet)) to the few owning most of the communication avenues into people’s lives.

    Here is a link to a Common Cause page that expresses the concern about the dangers of independent companies being gobbled up by a few very large media conglomerates: http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=2127045

    Whether one likes the news that is delivered is not the relevant concern. Whether the bias exists toward the right or toward the left of the political spectrum, if the integrity (and independence) of that news source is lacking, we all suffer. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I see a valuable role for independent (and honest) voices now, more than ever.

    Fred

  • http://www.thefutureofnews.com Steve Boriss

    Fred, No, actually you are not old-fashioned enough. Which part of “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” do you not understand? Same goes for the Fairness Doctrine. Anyone who wants to bring that back is un-American.

    As for media consolidation, the formation of the Associated Press was the mother of all media consolidations and it has led to a single national conversation, as I describe here/a. What does Common Cause have to say to that?

    (Steve Boriss, The Future of News)

  • Don

    Segueing into television “Life After Television” provides a different perspective on your take on a single national conversation.

    The top-down television system is an alien and corrosive force in democratic capitalism. Contrary to the rich and variegated promise of new technology proliferating options on every hand, TV squeezes the consciousness of an entire nation through a few score channels.

    While “How Much Does It Cost to Buy Global TV News?” provides some interesting background information about Associated Press Television.

    The vast majority of the TV news pictures you see are produced by two TV news companies. Presented here is a case for how a large amount of money has been used to inject a clear bias into the heart of the global TV news gathering system. That this happens is not at question, whether it is by accident or design is harder to tell.

    You may not realize it, but if you watch any TV news broadcast on any station anywhere in the world, there is a better than even chance you will view pictures from APTN. BBC, Fox, Sky, CNN and every major broadcaster subscribes to and uses APTN pictures.

  • http://www.thefutureofnews.com Steve Boriss

    Don, Yes, but how do the U.S. TV stations decide what’s newsworthy? By taking the lead of newspapers, who all share their news with each other as members of the Associated Press.

  • http://blog.roberthoffer.com Robert Hoffer

    Jeff’s flatly correct. The government deciding who should own which newspapers? That’s so far fetched it wouldn’t have even been taken seriously just a few short years ago. But these days? I suppose anything is possible. Hey I know – why not have the government own the press – that would protect us all, right?

    Edwards ought NOT to be the next president. He certainly isn’t getting my vote.

    As for media consolidation … um … really? Sure – the big media companies are folding onto themselves and working really hard to control television. But who cares? In case you haven’t noticed Ben Relles’ ObamaGirl video http://obamagirl.typepad.com/ has received 12MM downloads – and who knows how many people have emailed it around .. that’s like an 11 share in the Neilsons – 11 and it jumped ONTO TV and magazines FROM the internet.

    Broadcast TV is growing increasingly less important and if they keep putting up reality TVs, helping us lower our standards of what they are supposed to be able to produce in big media – they will become a marginal service.

    Keep the faith Jeff you’re on solid ground here.

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  • http://www.jasonfalls.com Jason Falls

    I have to disagree based on the simple fact that the proliferation of media consolidation in America means at some point our news will be as narrow and targeted from two sides as our politics. This only hurts the freedoms we hold so true. Don’t define us all as right or left, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. At a minimum, we the American public deserve mutliple choice, not just true-false.

    Edwards is right to offer the opinion and calling him politically cynical for doing so, in my opinion, is perhaps letting personal politics shine through.

  • Greg0658

    If J Edwards and I have a psychic connection he’s following my gut.

    The transfer of what was perceived as a US icon to a UK entity has me rumbling inside. I see factories all around me flying flags of different lands as well as the Stars & Stripes.

    I understand we here in USA are a melting pot and with global flow of money the fact is even more true … but I feel American inside.

    I shop alot of different stores at Christmas because I don’t want one entity to get to big for our own good. Sears/K-Mart are one now. I’m wondering when the storefronts will beome one. No good buyer for the building I guess, I dono’know. Money and all the plays it has these days. If ya got it to toss in the wind that is.

    I’m wondering when our troops should start flying the UN flag over their heads. Can we send our recruiters to foreign lands and pay our new enlistees in US dollars?

    These confounding influences of the scientific age and the computer program that produces an outcome faster than a human. Maybe we should ask Mr Computer – should we rebrand our American flag for our hearts sake?

    I wonder if Mr Computer could Mark to Owner all the cash (and all future cash liabilities) and provide a real sence who is America and who am I owned by.

    Me I still fly the Stars and Stripes out front on special days and a rainbow windsock everyday outback on the garage.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society robertdfeinman

    Print and broadcast need to be treated separately.

    In theory one can always start a new print publication and the market is “unlimited”.

    Broadcast is limited and even cable has technical and financial constraints which make it difficult for new services to be offered.

    The issue that needs study is what happens when a firm owns both types of outlets and uses its market power in one sector to control the other. It is widely believed that Murdoch’s ownership of the NY Post was based upon his desire to court favors from those in government so as to help the rest of his empire. If he were running it as a real business it wouldn’t still be in production since it has lost money every year since he bought it.

    Ask some Italians about media consolidation. Berlusconi’s control of the media in Italy made it almost impossible for any news that did not support his regime to get out. The result: a very unsuccessful administration and poor economic development for decades. The damage to democracy is still ongoing even though he is out of office.

    Don’t confuse libertarian ideals with the ugly reality of the world we live in. Control of the media because of its content should be opposed, but control of the media because it is a danger to democracy needs to be a factor when media mergers are approved.

  • Harry

    “I have to disagree based on the simple fact that the proliferation of media consolidation in America means at some point our news will be as narrow and targeted from two sides as our politics.”

    Jason, you must be very young or else have amnesia. Do you remember the 1950s, 1960s, and most of the 1970s? Then you had only three TV networks and even local newspapers followed the lead of the New York Times and Washington Post. It’s no eaggeration to say then that a handful of newes executives determined what was “news” and what topics were safe for public discussion. Compare that to today’s environment; you have CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. for broadcast news and unlimited blogs (like this one) that link to stories that the mainstream media choses to ignore (like how the LA Times has tried to ignore the misbehavior of LA’s mayor). Even if Murdoch wishes he could control the news agenda (and I think he secretly wishes he could), it’s impossible—-there are just too many possible outlets today for dissenting and contrary viewpoints.

    Anyone who says “media consolidation” is a problem is either a fool, a liar, or, most likely, both.

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  • http://www.roryoconnor.org Rory O’Connor

    And didn’t Edwards receive more than half a million dollars from Rupert for a book once? Of course, the money went to charity….

  • http://machiavelli.blog.co.uk/2007/07/30/a_bad_weekend_for_medical_science~2727679 Ian Thorpe

    Murdoch is not the press. News International have shown themselves to be an organisation that will misrepresent and misreport news in order to further their own interests. News International have shown they are willing to make up “news” items in order to further their interests.
    For three decades News International have supported right wing politicians in Britain and America but for every favour done have demanded two in return.

    Rupeert Murdoch is the enemy of free speech. Its understandable that you do not want to support Mr. Edwards but as a professor of journalism you should be opposing the extension of control over U.S. media by an organisation that seeks to destroy its business rivals by unfair means.

    Or do you perhaps fear one on Murdoch’s signature character assassinations if you oppose him?

  • http://cookingupastory.com Fred Gerendasy

    Steve:

    The part of Congress is the FCC agency that has a responsibility to evaluate and prevent mergers that would create unfair “monopolistic” advantages, and limit competition in the marketplace. Perhaps you are correct, the FCC should take a look at AP. But that still does not address the concern that roughly 60 companies control almost all of the print, radio, and television media in this country. I think that is a big problem that goes to the heart of both “free speech” and “fairness doctrine” though not (likely) in the manner that you would apply it.

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    (sigh) If this was anyone else other than Citizen Murdoch, I’d agree with Jeff. And if it was anyone other than Edwards, I’d probably disagree with him…

    I was just against the sale it because it IS Murdoch. If it was even Gannet, I wouldn’t worry…well, not as much, anyway… But, this is all kind of moot, isn’t it?

    What this is, is nothng. The deal is DONE, John-boy. And, what, EDWARDS is all sound-and-fury over it? Um…so what? Like he’s going to actually be able to DO anything about it? Like Hans Blix in TEAM AMERICA….”we’ll be very ANGRY about it, and we will write a LETTER saying how really ANGRY we are about it…” Please. He’s not even a front-runner.

    Jeff— Do you actually think Fox News has been unbiased? It isn’t even a reliable news organ anymore…come on! It’s an excellent weathervane on the Republicans…I’ll give it that. If you want to talk about censorship, spend some time watching O’Reilly cut off anyone who happens to disagree with his point of view…or watch Hannity spin straw into molybdenum. Newscorp isn’t about NEWS…its about catering to whoever can pull the right strings to make Murdoch more money. And for what?…a solid platinum coffin? I give the guy another decade, tops. He should be looking at Carnegie and Buffet and Gates, at this point in his life, not Trump…

    Yes, Edwards should shut up and not waste his time on done deals. No, Murdoch shouldn’t have had a shot at something like this. There’s nothing any of us can do about it except one thing…

    CHOOSE WISELY on who you watch for your news.

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  • http://www.media.mywcblogs.com Daniel

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Meddling in media, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  • Eric Jaffa

    The Democrats did a debate on Fox News in 2004. John Edwards was there. He isn’t afraid of Fox News.

    In 2004, Fox News stopped showing the debate while IT WAS STILL IN PROGRESS. They went to Fred Barnes analysis while the candidates were still debating.

    Fox News doesn’t deserve to host another Democratic debate for that reason alone.

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