11/18/2010

Elitist Rockefeller Proposes Media Censorship

Senate Confirmation Hearing (200910150008HQ)Image by nasa hq photo via Flickr
This is dangerous folks. A sitting Senator calling for the elimination of two news networks, because he considers them divisive? First things first.  The FCC has no jurisdiction over cable outlets. Nor Satellite.  He is calling for censorship.
A constituent of his called the Senators office inquiring about this, and was told by a staffer that the Senator "got off script".  This is an amazing admission. What it means is that the message he wants to convey is completely different from what he really thinks.  In a unscripted moment, he takes off the mask, and gives us a glimpse of who he really is.  The staffer also said that the Senator wants Congress to be able to do its business "without interference".  I read this as "we don't want any of you 'little people' bothering us as we make decisions about your lives." Apparently, an informed electorate is a threat to the Senator.  - Brian

Sen. Rockefeller Suggests Eliminating FOX, MSNBC
By Ryan G. Murphy, RTDNA Digital Media Editor


I was very disappointed to wake up this morning and see a video of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) blasting both FOX and MSNBC during a Cable & Broadcast subcommittee hearing on Wednesday with what appeared to be a request for government intervention if the network's content is not cleaned up.

Here's part of Rockefeller's statement: "There's a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to FOX and to MSNBC: 'Out. Off. End. Goodbye.' It would be a big favor to political discourse; our ability to do our work here in Congress, and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly, in their future."

Rockefeller's statement is concerning for a number of reasons but the most striking to me is the portion that reads: "It would be a big favor to political discourse...and to the American people."


As I'm reading this, Rockefeller is saying that the United States electorate will be better informed if we ELIMINATE two major media voices - that getting rid of them would essentially be addition by subtraction.

Put your own politics on FOX and MSNBC aside for a second and let's just agree that they can both sometimes present potentially polarizing views.

What Rockefeller is suggesting with his statement is that the views presented on FOX and MSNBC have no place in the news consumers' world and, because they are not "quality news," the government should intervene. Simply put, that's absolute censorship and undermines having a diverse flow of information in the market. It also destroys market-based competition among the networks. This is America, right?

Rockefeller failed to point out that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate either FOX or MSNBC. The channels are on cable - not broadcast airwaves. It's frustrating to see that he would even THINK to have the government step in because of content.

As the New York Times reported, the comments about FOX News and MSNBC were not in Mr. Rockefeller�s prepared remarks. In those prepared remarks, he also said:

"When it comes to developing content, our entertainment machine is too often in a race to the bottom. Even worse, our news media has all but surrendered to the forces of entertainment. Instead of a watchdog that is a check on the excesses of government and business, we have the endless barking of a 24-hour news cycle. We have journalism that is always ravenous for the next rumor, but insufficiently hungry for the facts that can nourish our democracy. As citizens, we are paying a price."

Among the digs in the above statement, Rockefeller is making a valid, and often discussed point among my colleagues - a 24-hour news cycle brings with it a vast set of challenges that require careful planning and extreme adaptability. It appears that during yesterday's hearing Rockefeller would have done much better if just stuck to his script.

Suggesting censorship is not only the easy way out but it also undermines the point you were trying to make, senator. Healthy political discourse requires diversity of opinion, not no opinion at all. If there's something on television you don't like, please just change the channel.

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