Monday, May 29, 2006

Column on Media Troubles

Media Troubles

Tibor R. Machan

So it looks like some media outlets are making use of prepackaged ?news?
produced by the state department and various corporations. The Center for
Media and Democracy, a leftwing media watch group, did a study in which
they found that ?at least 77 television stations were making use of these
faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs).? Moreover, the
organization reports, ?Not one told viewers who had produced them.?

It is a demonstration of the merits of a fee market place in the media to
see the Center of Media and Democracy come forth with its finding. That is
just what should happen when malfeasance occurs in the market place?other
agents in the free market, of whatever specialty, ought to vigilantly
report on it.

If only we would have a world in which these
would be reported not by bureaucrats and politicians, whose independence
is always questionable, but by competing agencies that though maybe
partisan in their own fashion are, nonetheless, numerous and varied enough
to provide an overall balanced perspective on what they report.

Alas, federal authorities, who will not leave well enough alone, are
already compromising the work of the Center of Media and Democracy. In a
free country it ought to be sufficient for the CMD to do its work, make it
available to the public and then let matters get sorted out by the various
players. This would include making the malfeasance itself an item of news.
And that is certainly what it is, in part?I read about the matter in the
newspaper Cape Times, in Cape Town, South Africa. But there is no reason
for the Federal Communications Commission to stick its bureaucratic
fingers into the matter?once the CMD did its business, the various
interested parties?broadcasters, viewers, advertisers, etc.?could easily
sort it all out nicely.

Sadly, however, the FCC has rushed in and decided to muddy the waters
with its own censorious ?investigation.? Reportedly investigators from the
FCC have approached the CMD for their report, presumably with the intent
of doing something about it.

Maybe you will recall the recent upheavals in some print media?The
Washington Post several years ago, The New York Times a little more
recently, and The New Republic just a year or so ago?where journalistic
came to light. All that had sorted itself out just fine and dandy without
any government involvement. Why did the feds not rush in when the print
media messed up but are eagerly sticking in their noses here, where
wrongdoing has apparently come to light in the electronic media?

The reason is that the print media operates in about as pure a free
market as we have in our country. Only religion would seem to be even less
corrupted with government interference. There is no Federal
Print-Journalism Commission watching over the doings of magazine,
newspaper, newsletter, and book publishers and editors. This is because
the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution has been understood?not
without some debate over the issue?to prohibit all government intervention
with the printed media. In earlier times the states did have
constitutional sanction to regulate the printed media but this has
gradually been replaced with the view that the U. S. Constitution protects
all of them from government intervention.

In contrast, the electronic media does not operate on a free marketplace.
Shortly after the medium was discovered in the early 1900s, the
electromagnetic spectrum had been nationalized, back in 1927, on the floor
of the US Senate, if I recall correctly. That act simply socialized or
nationalized one of the most important elements of American society. At
first the federal government established the Federal Radio Commission and
later, with the emergence of television broadcasting, this was changed to
the Federal Communications Commission.

That is the legal justification behind the involvement of the feds in a
matter that ought to be completely left to free market processes. And that
is the reason we have here, when the free market would do a fine job of
self-regulation, the intrusion of a bunch of bureaucrats who are not only
completely superfluous but most likely instrumental in making what would
normally be a
matter of professional ethics a matter of partisan, ideological