Free speech is free speech

Free speech is free speech

: The Center for Creative Voices and I are allies in the fight against censorship and government regulation of speech but we part over government regulation of the business of media. Creative Voices just released its media bill of rights. We agree at the start:

A free and vibrant media, full of diverse and competing voices, is the lifeblood of Americaís democracy and culture, as well as an engine of growth for its economy.

They believe that corporate consolidation is ruining that. I believe that the internet is solving that and corporate consolidation is about the dinosaurs huddling together for warmth as their ice age approaches. I believe the market and technology are giving us incredible control and diversity.

At Freedom to Connect, Susan Crawford told us that we should not ask for regulation where we want it or we will get it where we don’t want it: Witness the PBS kerfluffle.

Creative Voices wants regulation on ownership of media — of the press, regulation on diversity of hiring in media; regulation mandating content on the airwaves:

Electoral and civic, childrenís, educational, independently produced, local and community programming, as well as programming that serves Americans with disabilities and underserved communities.

Media that reflect the presence and voices of people of color, women, labor, immigrants, Americans with disabilities, and other communities often underrepresented.

But if you ask for that kind of regulation to give you the programming you think the world should have, you open the door to regulation to give the other side the programming they think the world should have. You want shows about people of color and women and immigrants. They want shows with God and no sex.

The only answer is the First Amendment as it applies to speech, content, regulation, and ownership:

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

(And, yes, I now believe this holds for political speech as well.)

: CORRECTION: Jon Rintels, head of Creative Voices, corrects me in the comments: Creative Voices signed the bill of rights with others and did not release it on its own. He urges you to read the bill. So do I. We disagree about some things and agree about others so have at it.

  • Atom

    What exactly is a kerfluffle again?

  • chuck

    The Center for Creative Voices sounds rather confused as to what freedom of speech is. Of course, they do offer the freedom to say the right things, but only the right things, and only as they judge them to be right. The usual totalitarian nonsense.

  • DSmith

    Sorry, Jeff. The Center is just another group of censors. They want to decide for the public what the public should see. They are *not* your allies.

  • Mike

    After reading their media bill of rights Jeff, I’m surprised that you would even choose to align yourself with these people in any fight.
    After reading about their group, they sound like some liberal leaning hollywood group looking to install their beliefs of what should be on TV and radio. They are no different than religious groups crying about inappropriate content on the airwaves. Their whole bill of rights has nothing to do with your personal freedom and everything to do with what they feel should be on TV.
    Their favorite words in their bill of rights are diverse and well-funded. Both things would just require more government regulation than less. So again, I”m not sure why you would even choose to align yourself with this group in any aspect of your crusade.

  • EverKarl

    People, people, give Jeff a break, willya? In matters of politics, you can agree with someone or some group on some issues and not others. Jeff’s post is almost entirely critical of the Center, but everyone is focusing on the introductory clause instead.
    That being said, I hasten to add that I agree with the criticism of the Center offered by Jeff and the prior commenters.

  • (And, yes, I now believe this holds for political speech as well.)

    Do you seriously mean to say you didn’t believe this until recently? Jeff, if the First was designed to protect anything, it was political speech.
    You’re just making a joke here, right?

  • I’m the Exec Director of the aforesaid Center for Creative Voices in Media. Just a couple of points. First, Creative Voices didn’t “release” the Bill of Media Rights, we’re a signatory to it, as are at least 115 other groups with memberships of over 20 million people, or so I’m told by the people at Common Cause who are counting these things up. Having said that, we support it and are proud that we took the lead in the coalition in drafting it. Because we think that while some might take issue with one principle or another, as Jeff did with one, all in all it’s a terrific statement of general principles to keep in mind as Congress prepares to reopen the 1996 Telecom Act, act on the Digital TV transition, and make more draconian the indecency regulations.
    Second, yes, we do believe the American public has a right to “electoral and civic programming,” etc. That doesn’t mean we’re trying to “mandate” it, as Jeff writes. We’re part of a coalition that asked the FCC to put it in a VOLUNTARY GUIDELINE that was specifically NOT MANDATORY for broadcasters who receive from the public a free license to use the public’s airwaves. Is that too much to ask? Well, the broadcasters certainly think so. I don’t.
    Third, I don’t care for content guidelines either. A far less concentrated media structure that allows more access to the public’s airwaves, and more independent voices on our cable systems, would, IMO, make content guidelines unnecessary, just as it would make any indecency regs unnecessary. The market itself would address that and give the audience the power to pick and choose what to watch and what to avoid. But we don’t have that now. And that’s what the vast majority of the principles of the Bill of Media Rights address.
    Maybe blogging and the Internet will one day turn these conglomerates into dinosaurs, as Jeff writes, but I heard that about the 500 channel universe of cable, too. Instead, the conglomerates took over cable and we have many voices, few ventriloquists. And they’ll try to do the same with the Internet, which is why the Brand X case is so important. We lose that case, broadband providers like Comcast become Internet gatekeepers. Blogs — and everything else on the Net — are at their mercy. So the Bill of Rights talks about that, too, stating as a principle that Americans should have the freedom to surf to any site on the Net over their broadband connection. Is that a problem for this group?
    Bottom line: before dismissing the Bill of Media Rights out of hand, read it first. It’s on our website, We think it’s a terrific document and are pleased to support it.
    Jon Rintels
    Executive Director
    Center for Creative Voices in Media

  • Jon: Thanks for the comment and the correction; I added a correction to the main post. And, yes, people should follow the link and read it and keep the discussion going.

  • JSinger

    Second, yes, we do believe the American public has a right to “electoral and civic programming,” etc. That doesn’t mean we’re trying to “mandate” it, as Jeff writes.
    It seems to me that it rather cheapens the notion of “rights” to use the word for anything you think is kinda nice. I’m relieved to hear that they’re not (supposedly) pushing for government enforcement of such “rights” as “challenging programming” made by a “diverse” workforce, but then they should use appropriate language.

  • Del

    I don’t think I’d trust these do-gooder leftists much more than the prudes at the FCC/PTC…. OK, maybe a little more – but not much.

  • I like what Garrison Keillor says here:
    “After the iPod takes half the radio audience and satellite radio subtracts half of the remainder and Internet radio gets a third of the rest and Clear Channel has to start cutting its losses and selling off frequencies, good-neighbor radio will come back. People do enjoy being spoken to by other people who are alive and who live within a few miles of you.”
    Read the whole thing. Even if you don’t agree with it, it’s fun to read the writing of a Radio Master.

  • HA

    Bill Quick,
    Do you seriously mean to say you didn’t believe this until recently? Jeff, if the First was designed to protect anything, it was political speech.
    I would have to assume that this is a reference to McCain-Feingold. Many people are beginning to realize that McCain-Feingold has nothing to do with limiting the influence of money in politics. Rather, it is a cynical effort by incumbants to protect incumbants from criticism and a gross violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

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