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The FCC As Internet Kingmaker

By 22 February 2010 No Comment

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps wants his agency to reach its regulatory tentacles into the “new media” space in order to protect the “public interest.” His appeal, made last week in a statement about the future of media, is another case of the FCC pushing for regulations well outside its statutory authority and overreaching.

Copps and his allies in the media “reform” movement couch their ideas in noble terms. To hear them tell it, they want to uphold the founding fathers’ vision of a democratic citizenry informed by a free and vibrant press.

“The road we’re traveling is inflicting irreparable harm not just on our media, but on the citizenry that media has an obligation to inform and enlighten,” Copps said. He added that “a robust national dialogue about what we expect of our journalism media going forward in this era of great technology and economic change” is central to America’s future.

But Copps got to the heart of his agenda a few paragraphs later in his statement:

So the future of journalism begins now. Now is the time to strengthen traditional media, and now is the time to make sure that new media, as it takes on ever-larger responsibilities, serves the public interest and nourishes the democratic dialogue that our best leaders have worked for since the time of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They knew they had to get this issue right — and I hope we are beginning to understand that, too.

Don’t let the dropped names mislead you. Copps wants the federal government to do something Washington and Jefferson never imagined possible — control the Internet medium in order to pursue Uncle Sam’s vision of what is best for the people.

Washington, Jefferson and the rest of the founders also never wanted the kind of bureaucratic meddling in the “media system” that Copps said is “at the top of my list of things to do.” They advocated a hands-off government approach to the press because they understood that journalists who are truly free from government would freely critique that government.

Copps contends that his goal is fostering “democratic dialogue,” but his vision isn’t the least bit democratic. It is autocratic. He wants to grab power for the FCC that lawmakers did not give the agency. He wants the FCC to be the Internet media kingmaker.

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