by Jack Minor
WHILE THERE have been Government assaults on the First Amendment throughout the history of America, 2010 featured bipartisan attacks on all major forms of media.
Congress proposed legislation giving the President what many have said is a “kill switch” on the Internet enabling him to shut it down in the event of a “national cyber emergency.” A national cyber emergency is defined in the legislation as an “actual or imminent action to exploit a cyber vulnerability.” In defending the law, Sen. Joe Lieberman referenced China’s right to shut down the Internet as reason to pass similar legislation in the United States.
“Cyber war is going on in some sense right now… and we need this capacity in a time of war” and “the President needs to have the ability to disconnect parts of the Internet.” Lieberman went on to say that the President wouldn’t do this “every day” and would only do it in the event of a “catastrophic event.” Lieberman said Internet users need to “relax” and that “China can disconnect parts of its Internet in the case of war; we need to have that here, too.”
In December FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, during a speech at Columbia University, called for a “public values test” for every broadcast station as a condition of broadcast license renewal.
The test would include stations committing to news and public affairs programming with an emphasis on local civic affairs. Copps’ goal is that at least 25 percent of a station’s content would reflect local issues. Copps would like to require that local content reflects “the diverse interests and needs of the community.” He complains that currently, diversity of programming suffers and minorities “are ignored.” Copps also states he wishes to increase Black ownership of television stations. Critics have said the regulations would be a back door approach to reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine….
There have even been government proposals to regulate print media. Republican State Senator Bruce Patterson of Michigan proposed a plan allowing the government to license journalists in much the same way as hairdressers, mechanics, and plumbers are licensed. Patterson’s proposal sought to ensure that reporters operate by ethical standards acceptable to a government-run board.
Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission released a report titled “The Reinvention of Journalism,” which stated that more news Web sites did not mean more choice for consumers, and decried what they called a lack of local news coverage. The report went on to list several recommendations to help save the ailing print newspaper industry — including the possibility of government subsidies.
Other proposals recommend that once an organization breaks a news story, that that story be investigated, with other news sites being prohibited from covering the same story for a set time.