By WILLIAM MAYER
August 25, 2009 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - On December 1st and 2nd the Federal Trade Commission is hosting a conference on the future viability of America's media calling it, "From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?" [source, http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/08/news2009.shtm]
According to the FTC website, "The workshops will bring competition, consumer protection, and First Amendment perspectives to bear on the financial, technological, and other challenges facing the news industry as consumers increasingly turn to the Internet for free news and information, advertisers increasingly move their ads onto online sites and reduce advertising buys as a result of the recession, and news organizations struggle with large debt that was taken on when times were better."
Organizers seem to have a firm grasp of the obvious, opining that "Several large daily newspapers across the country have declared bankruptcy in the past year...News magazines also have seen significant drop-offs in advertising revenues...Broadcast television news and radio news broadcasts have lost audience shares over the past decade..."
The FTC is chaired by Jon Leibowitz, with William Kovacic, Pamela Jones Harbour and J. Thomas Rosch serving as commissioners. Leibowitz is a career Democrat operative, having served as Democratic Chief Counsel for the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee during Clinton's last term in office. He also has served as counsel to Hollywood's entertainment industry.
The Commission's primary function is to serve as a watchdog agency to "prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them." [source, ibid]
Since it could be claimed that the subject matter of this proposed media workshop seems to fall substantially outside the general purview of FTC's charter, we contacted the agency's Office of Public Affairs today to obtain clarification, speaking to Susan DeSanti, Director, Office of Policy Planning.
PipeLineNews.org - "How did this event come about?"
Ms. DeSanti - "The FTC has special statutory responsibility to study issues relating to competition and the economy and in that capacity we have studied a large variety of issues including for example the healthcare industry. We've studied patents and patent reform [and] the pharmaceutical industry...in that capacity we started seeing all of these articles about questions about the future of the news and we thought it might be worthwhile to learn more about this and see if we could help move the dialogue forward. Ordinarily we don't get involved in industries that are in the midst of transition....we look at that and say well that's the market working [but] these issues have a special dimension because of the importance of the news to the functioning of a democracy..."
PipeLineNews.org - "That seems to be an extraordinarily wide interpretation of your mandate...the news industry itself is not in jeopardy there are sectors of the industry which through their own actions have made themselves less competitive in the Internet age so where is it the responsibility of the FTC to police people who are doing injury to themselves?"
Ms. DeSanti -"This in no way has anything to do with policing anyone, the FTC is not taking about taking any regulatory action, this is a study, we do workshops, we do studies and they certainly don't always result in enforcement actions...this would be the FTC studying an issue and possibly making a recommendation for legislation, there are certainly ideas which have been floated here in terms of the potential for changes in the tax code to make it clear that newspapers and other organizations are educational and therefore can operate as non-profits..."
It is no secret that substantial portions of the leftist print and electronic media are ailing, with falling numbers of readers, viewers and listeners accompanied by decreasing advertising revenues and subsequently, plummeting profits.
This fact has led media figures such as Dan Rather to petition the president to "save" the media.
In a July 28 speech delivered at the leftist Aspen Institute he stated, "I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media... A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom...This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press' traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about."
As the Aspen Daily News observed about the address, "Such a commission on media reform, Rather said, ought to make recommendations on saving journalism jobs and creating new business models to keep news organizations alive. At stake, he argued, is the very survival of American democracy." [source, http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/135834]
The level of angst on the left regarding this issue is troubling, given the total political domination it now has in DC, a development which could not have occurred without the complicity of exactly the same media sources which now need "saving."
We therefore regard the FTC's upcoming December workshops as being worrisome, potentially a stalking-horse, a first step towards the creation of an unfair playing field in we which find the segments of the media which have - against its own self-interest and those of its consumers - rejected any semblance of fairness and objectivity in coverage, now seeking federal protection to retain whatever hegemony they may still have.
Making changes in the tax code or any other schemes coming from team Obama whereby the media players, which have clearly proven themselves unfaithful servants of the First Amendment, might be protected against the ramifications of their actions is manifestly acting against the public interest and seemingly 180 degrees out of phase with the supposed purpose of the FTC.
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