Friday, March 18, 2005

New FCC leader: Another enemy of YOUR freedom?

disclaimer: Frequent readers to this blog will already be aware that MovieBob's definition of an "enemy of freedom" casts a pretty wide net, essentially encompassing ANYONE in or seeking a position of regulatory power who is in favor of increasing OR opposed to decreasing (or, ideally, eliminating) Government-enforced censorship of radio, television, film, print or radio. As the First Ammendment to the Constitution of the United States establishes a freedom, and as almost all such censorship violates this freedom, the by Socratic method I feel comfortable in refering to censorship advocates as being enemies of that freedom.

That being said, the answer to the above question is... possibly.

With Michael Powell having stepped down as FCC head, the new appointee announced today is one Kevin Martin. As was expected, Martin is a preexisting member of the FCC and thus will be allowed to skip the confirmation hearings which have dogged Bush appointees for most of his tenure thus far. Martin's "promotion" does, however, leave a vacancy which will need to be filled by appointment, which has the unlikely chance of turning out well for those of us who value freedom if an anti-censorship appointee were to be named. (But don't hold your breath, since Senator Clinton has already shown that the Democrats' move-to-the-middle strategy is right now heavily contingent on their cozying up to the far-right support for censorship of the arts.)

Surprising no one, Martin is a career politician with strong ties to the current White House: A former campaign counselor and economic advisor to the 2001 Bush campaign, his wife is an economic policy special-assistant to the president and previous worked for Vice President Cheney.

The Brandenton Herald has a good just-the-facts writeup:

So... is Martin going to be a friend or foe to to the First Ammendment in the current climate of pro-censorship lionhearts like L. Brent Bozell's "Parent's Television Council" continuing to escalate their war on broadly-defined "indecency?" Well, he's certainly not a hardliner, or at least has never made any big waves as one thus far. However, he DOES appear to buy into the same "family programming"-centric mantras as Bozell does. Among the paltry "paper-trail" on Martin right now is this brief mention in an article from the invaluable Cato Institute, which lists him as among those who wish to extend the already-ludicrous "decency standards" in place for network television to Cable:

Money quote from Cato (boldface is mine): "For example, during recent hearings, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) suggested that Congress needs to create a "code of conduct" for television that encompasses cable and satellite TV. And Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Republican FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin both suggested that cable and satellite companies should offer a "family-friendly" tier of programming."

Yeah, not exactly the pedigree I was personally aching for in an FCC chairman.

By the way, if you've still never heard of Cato, it's time you did. A kind of all-in-one information outlet for Libertarian-minded Americans, Cato (and especially their media guru Adam Thierer) is one of the most powerful and politically-fair advocates of the first ammendment out there. One more GREAT quote from Thierer:

"Moreover, what happened to common sense and personal responsibility in this country? After all, these cable and satellite boxes and personal computers and Internet connections didn't just magically appear in our homes; we put them there! Once we voluntarily bring these devices into our home we shouldn't ask government to assume the bulk of the responsibility for then minding our children."

Amen. Now THERE is an American who understands what freedom, and the responsibility attendant to it, is really all about.

Now, the other side to this is that Martin has, in the past, shown himself to be a potential proponent of dregulation, that is to say a gradual but steady dissolution of the FCC's overall powers in the policing of the industry from the business side. He was in favor of drastic deregulation of the phone companies previously, and clashed with Powell over the issue numerous times. Here, a small Texas telecom biz sees his ascension as a good sign:

The reason this might be good for everyone is that deregulation-advocates are generally pro-business and will generally fall on the side of "whats best for the industry botton-line," and anyone in the industry with a brain will tell you that LESS censorship and GREATER leeway for "harder" content is more profitable for them. So there's that possible bright spot, and all the more reason to be fair and not get TOO worried about this fellow until he actually starts showing a legislative style in his new post.


L. Brent Bozell and his anti-freedom pro-censorship group The Parents Television Council think he's great for the job...
...and that, people, is a VERY good reason to be concerned.

From the PTC: "The PTC has strongly supported Kevin Martin as Chairman of the FCC because he is a stalwart leader on the issue of indecency, and we are confident he will make a superb Chairman," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council."

BTW, you can read my expose on Bozell, the PTC and their FCC-baiting pro-censorship skullduggery here:

Now, to be fair, the PTC "liked" Michael Powell until he started calling them on their agenda and dumping their mass-mailings, so this could just be some strategic posturing. Still, if Bozell likes a choice for this job, chances are he thinks theres at least a chance that this new leader might be a comrade-in-arms in his endless campaign to control what you and I are allowed to see.

In the end, FCC chairmen will come and go, and eventually so will Bozell and his cronies. But until we wake up and accept the fact that censorship will never work and will always be a violation of basic human freedoms we'll just keep doing this same dance. On that note, I leave you with a final admonition from Cato's Adam Theirer:

"Those of us who are parents understand that raising a child in today's modern media marketplace is a daunting task at times. But that should not serve as an excuse for inviting Uncle Sam in to play the role of surrogate parent for us and the rest of the public without children."

The battle continues.