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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Media 'reform' schemes business as usual for some on FCC -- By Byron York, The Washington Examiner

Photo - (ThinkStock)Democrats on the Federal Communications Commission say they have absolutely no plans to censor the press.

"The commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler wrote to a group of House Republicans on Feb. 14, after controversy erupted over an FCC project to question journalists to determine whether their articles, commentaries, and newscasts meet government-determined "critical information needs."

Likewise, FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a key backer of the project, said during her Senate confirmation hearing back in 2009 that the FCC "is not in the business of censoring speech or content on the basis of political views and opinions."

They no doubt believe what they say. So what explains the FCC's -- or at least the Democratic side of the FCC's -- willingness to embark on an effort that many journalists felt infringed on some of the nation's most cherished First Amendment protections?

The answer lies in the firm belief among many on the Left, and that includes some in the FCC, that the media is in dire need of "reform."

Angry and troubled by the continued success of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and other conservative programs and personalities, media reformers say the press is under such tight corporate control that "independent" voices have been drowned out and many Americans receive a dangerously one-sided diet of information.

The answer, those reformers believe, is strong government action to create more "diversity" in the media. If more women and minorities, in particular, own and control media outlets, the idea goes, the less influence Limbaugh, Fox, et al will have.

Photo - A key advocate of the project to assess whether news organizations are meeting government-defined "critical information needs" was Mignon Clyburn, an Obama-appointed FCC commissioner and for part of last year the acting chair of the FCC. (AP Photo)In 2011, Commissioner Clyburn appeared at an event called the National Conference for Media Reform, staged annually by a left-leaning media activist organization called Free Press. From the audience came a question: "I understand the Fairness Doctrine is not coming back, but why has the FCC sat by and allowed angry, hateful, often racist talk show hosts, 95 percent of whom are conservative, to poison the supposedly public airwaves?"

The crowd erupted in applause. Clyburn began her answer by suggesting her heart was with the questioner. "This is when the personal side of Mignon and the professional side of Mignon are at constant war," she said. On the one hand, America has free speech for all, "and when we talk about those freedoms of expression, that sometimes mean expressions which we don't agree with."

 On the other hand, Clyburn said, she would like to see government use its power to weaken those "angry voices." She encouraged the crowd to keep "pushing this agency and pushing the powers that be to help diversify [the media]. If you have more options, you have more opportunities to get more voices across … and the voices that we might have problems with become less popular, and we don't have to worry about that."

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