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A Monstrous Vision For Media Reform

By 19 February 2010 23 Comments

It took 90 minutes but Tuesday evening’s panel discussion about the future of news ultimately devolved into a predictable attack by media “reformers” on commercial media and communications companies that see the Internet as their “plaything.”

The panelists — Robert McChesney and John Nichols of Free Press, Jane Hamsher of the blog Firedoglake, and Ivan Roman of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists — all said their ideas for media reform depend first and foremost upon winning a fight for control of the Internet. Their idea of victory is government oversight and massive federal spending.

“We are talking about spending money, substantial amounts,” Nichols said at the National Press Club.

McChesney lobbed the first grenade at cable and telecommunications companies near the end of the question-and-answer session. In defending the kind of spending he and Nichols advocate, he accused the government of giving “enormous subsidies to support commercial media” in the form of broadcast spectrum and “monopoly licenses to telephone and cable companies that they could build these Internet empires on.”

McChesney, whose group is part of a coalition that this week called on the FCC to impose sweeping regulations as part of a national broadband plan, said communications firms are among “the most hated companies in America,” not just by consumers but also by businesses that he said would benefit from such a broadband plan.

“The battle for a ubiquitous broadband that’s inexpensive and that is uncensored by the phone and cable companies at the bottleneck is absolutely essential,” he said. “Without that, everything else we’re talking about won’t take place.”

Free Press is subsidized by the deep pockets of billionaire George Soros and the current FCC is friendly toward the Free Press agenda of government interference in the Internet space, but McChesney still thinks the broadband deck is stacked against his side.

“This fight, we’re going up against King Kong and Godzilla on steroids,” he said.

McChesney accused phone and cable companies of having a business model aimed at “buying off politicians.” He called them monopolists who want “to take over and effectively privatize the Internet, make it their private plaything.”

McChesney’s rant against an imagined “rip off” perpetrated by “commercial media” is consistent with his oft-stated (but under-reported) “ultimate goal” of dismantling the capitalist system in general and getting rid of the “media capitalists” in particular. His perverted vision of a “free” press features a government that has regulatory and financial influence over both the infrastructure underpinning journalism and the people producing it.

Hamsher was a voice of reason at times during the roundtable. She joined other Internet media entrepreneurs who at an FTC workshop last fall rejected the idea of public subsidies for journalism.

“They tend to be fashioned to reinforce weak, existing structures,” Hamsher said. “If you start subsidizing the wrong thing, you freeze the innovation in that one model.”

But she also advocated an “egalitarian infrastructure spend” by the government on broadband in order to foster the growth of publications like hers so they can compete with the “elite media.” Hamsher claimed that telecom and media companies “cannibalize” the Internet by controlling the infrastructure.

“For people who really live and eat and breathe and need to be on the Internet just to be able to perform their day’s functions and live in society as a functioning, proactive person, [broadband access] is the prerequisite for everything,” she said.

The NAHJ’s Roman added: “Fighting against four companies that basically want to control the Internet in this country to me is the fight that we must have now for the future.”

And Nichols blasted Comcast and NBC for good measure, arguing that Free Press’ friends should invest some energy into preventing the firms from merging.

To recap: America’s truly free media market, the one we have now and that offers greater opportunity thanks to the Internet, is a rip-off. Cable and telecom companies that build networks and make the widespread dissemination of independent journalism possible are evil, money-grubbing monsters. And the government can make it all better.

That’s all you need to know to reject the reformers’ vision for media in a digital society.


  • The Greenroom » Forum Archive » A Monstrous Vision For Media Reform said:

    […] at Digital Society, where the author is the editorial […]

  • The Enlightened Redneck » The Blog Bash At FreedomWorks said:

    […] an entry there this morning in my new role as the editorial director of the free-market think tank Digital Society. The topic is the left’s spooky vision for media reform. Here’s an excerpt: It took 90 […]

  • Bilwick said:

    And yet Goldberg’s LIBERAL FASCISM is dismissed as mere fantasy by these types.

  • RSweeney said:

    I feel like we are living inside chapter one of William L Shirer’s book.

  • Jim,MtnViewCA,USA said:

    I liked this comment by Glenn Reynolds
    “Let’s be clear: The apparatchiks want a system where taxpayers subsidize their views, and also pay for the apparatus that suppresses views they don’t like.”

    Hermann Goering’s got nothin’ on these guys….

  • Max said:


  • PD Quig said:

    Let’s see: would I rather have four companies driven by market forces define the Internet, or one government? These creeps are part of the insidious, pernicious battle against liberty. We shall kill their ideas in their tracks.

  • Mike C said:

    If you don’t like your current ISP or media outlet’s business practices, youy can take your business elsewhere or just let it go.

    With government, not so much – to paraphrase H. L. Mencken, we get it good and hard, whether we ask for it or not.

    Memo to Mr. McChesney: it ain’t the government’s bandwidth to begin with, jerkweed.

  • DirtCrashr said:

    “Free Press” is subsidized by the deep pockets of billionaire George Soros – and they complain about government “subsidies” of companies who license bits of the spectrum – when they want ownership of the WHOLE spectrum? Soros IS government. The absolute lack of irony among collectivists is amazing.

  • Mike said:

    This is one more example of a terrible solution in search of a problem. There is no shortage of media or journalism in this country. Why should the public subsidize any of it? Media that don’t make money should go hat in hand to private charities (cf. The St. Pete Times) or should go out of business. There is nothing special about newspapers (and I say that as someone who worked as a newspaper writer, editor and designer for 20 years).

    State-supported journalists will be whores for the state. No shortage of those already, either.

    While we’re at it, repeal the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. NPR and PBS do some good work, despite their consistent leftward bias, but the principle of the thing is what counts: The government should not spend one dime promotion any particular medium or viewpoint over any other.

  • Koblog said:

    The juxtaposition of

    “Free Press is subsidized by the deep pockets of billionaire George Soros,”

    “McChesney’s [of Free Press]… “ultimate goal” of dismantling the capitalist system in general”

    …makes my head explode.

    A guy who’s made billions as a capitalist funds an organization called “Free Press” that wants to dismantle capitalism so everyone can get to the internet that’s controlled by very large government spending.

    Yeah, that makes sense.

  • JosefG said:

    Golly gosh, I just love Jane Hamsher. She’s cute, smells great, and thinks just like me!

    Very truly yours,

    Josef Goebbels
    Late German Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, 1933-1945

    P.S. Please FedEx three sets of asbestos long johns and two rolls of duct tape c/o “Josef Goebbels, Ninth Circle of Hell.” It’s hotter than blue blazes here and, even worse, Hermann Goering has been talking my ear off nonstop since 1946. If I don’t duct tape that fat f***’s mouth shut, I’m gonna wring his neck as sure as Megan Fox has no talent.

  • TMLutas said:

    You can solve a huge chunk of the competitive problems on bandwidth by simply moving the demarcation point between wiring you own as homeowner and wiring your ISP owns. In your normal, average, suburban development or even your average urban apartment building, There’s enough money flowing out every month that it would equal the bandwidth needs of a small/medium business that can buy its Internet uncensored, unfiltered, and at decent prices from a large number of competitive providers. The problem is that the providers currently own the wiring *past* the convenient aggregation point. This is the fault of the builders, who simply are used to doing things that way. You could solve 1-3% of the problem every year by simply getting the builders to build differently. No laws would need to be passed and the changes would not cost the builders anything. It’s mostly a legal change.

    For established residences, creating a legal regime where the incumbent wiring can be reasonably de-corporatized to enhance consumer bargaining power is worth discussing. If the corporations really do exercise onerous control, housing developments and buildings can always rewire and render the existing infrastructure loss making for the incumbent. A legal framework that takes care of rights of way issues ahead of time and allows corporations to sell it off easily and maybe maintaining some income going forward instead of just losing their investments and being shut out entirely is possible.

    The corporations’ right-of-way monopolies and duopolies aren’t exactly free-market capitalism. We can push things forward towards more free market solutions or we can push them more towards corporatism/socialism. I’d like the former but in either case the status quo has got to go.

  • Maggie's Farm said:

    Heading to Vermont last minute links…

    I hear the snow is good at Jay Peak. Tofu: Bad for the earth. h/t, Englishman. In my view, it is poison. Every grandma knows, to her dismay, that personality traits are inherited: The Genetics of Job Choice Gotta like Mike Pence Via Insty,…

  • Buck O'Fama said:

    Typical left-wing a*holes…. the problem is always freedom and the solution is to give them control. I wish they’d all move to North Korea so they can be part of a society more to their liking.

  • iPad Links: Friday, February 19, 2010 « Mike Cane's iPad Test said:

    […] Your Data Go A Monstrous Vision For Media Reform Leadership Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures Using Over 1,000 Shell Companies To Hide […]

  • James Jones said:

    I despise Hamsher et al. as much as anyone, but… basically, the phone and cable TV companies, beneficiaries of government-granted monopolies, have the broadband market cornered in most places. Once upon a time there was justification for multiple communications media, but now, it’s all bits–but the phone companies (even cell phone) and cable companies want people to have to buy both their dinosaur media and internet service as long as they can force it to happen. There is an inherent conflict of interest in being both a content provider and a bandwidth provider–hence you have idiocies like “TV Everywhere”, which lets you get TV online… but only if you also subscribe to cable, or the infamous Canadian ISPs that give preferential treatment to their VoIP services.

  • Mondo said:

    “Reformers” here is shorthand for “reformers in the Marxist sense of the word.”

    Crush Progressive ideas and thoughts–before they crush free speech on the Internet.

  • John Higgins said:

    Liberal idiots.

  • The Oracle said:

    Pure evil. They must be stopped.

  • furious said:

    A guy who’s made billions as a capitalist funds an organization called “Free Press” that wants to dismantle capitalism so everyone can get to the internet that’s controlled by very large government spending.

    Yeah, that makes sense.

    C’mon, you know the type — Soros has made his pile, he’s pulling up the drawbridge behind him.

    And, when all is just smoking rubble, Soros will at least own the smoking rubble.

  • Albert said:

    Anywhere it can be said that “Hamsher was a voice of reason at times during the roundtable” has to be a totally wacked-out place.