Is the Federal Communications Commission building a case for government-subsidized news? It’s not hard to imagine that will be the outcome of the Commission’s “Future of Media” inquiry. The digital age has produced a “democratic shortfall,” according to one source cited in the inquiry’s public notice. Another scholar working on the project for the FCC has said that today’s media abundance calls for “public media entities” that will serve “as both a filter to reduce information overload and a megaphone to give voice to the unheard.”
In other words, a free marketplace of ideas isn’t good enough for some. They want the government to pick winners and losers—as long as the winners express views with which they happen to agree. Care to guess which views those will be?
As Randolph May of the Free State Foundation notes, the justifications for a government role in controlling content are ever shifting. Once, alleged scarcity was the reason that the FCC could impose the fairness doctrine on radio without running afoul of the First Amendment. (See, for instance, the Supreme Court’s 1969 Red Lion decision.) Now it’s not scarcity but abundance that government is supposed to fix by acting as a filter. Meanwhile, the FCC has no problem telling private industry that filtering content is a no-no. Disallowing Internet service providers from discriminating among sources or kinds of content is the intent of the Commission’s push for net neutrality.
If you are concerned about what the FCC is up to with its “Future of Media” inquiry, then you should attend the Free State Foundation’s event this Friday at noon at the National Press Club. The event, titled “The FCC’s ‘Future of Media’ Inquiry: What Is the FCC Is Doing – And Why?” features a presentation from Steven Waldman, who is leading the FCC’s inquiry. That will be followed by a discussion from a panel of three experts on communications policy: Catholic University professor and Free State Foundation fellow Donna Coleman Gregg, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, and former FCC commissioner and current Free State Foundation fellow Deborah Taylor Tate.