While making demands for more federal money, another topic at the Free Press summit was how to divvy up the $7.2 billion that was authorized in the federal economic “stimulus” legislation to expand access to the Internet. The legislation makes the funds available to private and left-wing non-profit entities. There is no way of knowing at this point how much of this could be funneled into the coffers of “progressive” groups, including the Free Press itself.
Big Government is Back
Demonstrating its close ties to the Obama Administration, one of the featured speakers was Susan Crawford of President Obama’s National Economic Council. She was introduced by Timothy Wu, chairman of the Free Press board and an advocate of more federal regulation of the media. A Columbia Law School Professor and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Wu claims the U.S. Constitution is flawed because the founders did not anticipate the problem of “the abuse of private power.” He coined the term “net neutrality,” an attempt to justify federal control of the Internet in the name of guaranteeing equal access to it.
While several speakers paid lip service to the First Amendment, there was no serious discussion as to how freedom of the press could be maintained in the face of mounting federal involvement in the journalism profession. One has to conclude, therefore, that the natural result of having new federal money and sponsorship would be that journalists would toe the “progressive” line, as they already do at public radio and TV, despite legal obligations of fairness and balance.
Another speaker, Vivian Schiller, the new President of National Public Radio (NPR), was already comfortable with federal funding and could use more. NPR, which claims an audience of 27 million Americans through 860 public radio stations, continues to get federal money through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. However, she said NPR is also facing a financial crisis because of a reduction in corporate underwriting and investment income.
Schiller recently came to NPR from the New York Times Company, another failing liberal media enterprise, where she served as senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com.
Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is an excerpt of one of his columns, which can be read in its entirety here.