You may not have noticed that the Obama Administration, in addition to trying to seize control of the health care and energy sectors, is implementing a national "broadband plan" to redefine the media and transform America 's system of government. It's designed, they say, to provide "open government and civic engagement." But it looks increasingly like an excuse for the federal government to control the Internet and access to information and even tell us what is truth.
Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute recently explained at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "National Broadband Plan Workshop" that it is necessary to have "a common space with shared facts." Armed with $7.2 billion of "stimulus" money, the federal government is going to provide this. It looks like various progressive groups are lining up at the public trough for their share of the loot. They have in mind what the George Soros-funded Free Press calls "an alternative media infrastructure."
If you think we already have that, with public TV and radio, think again. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has received $8 billion in federal tax dollars since it was created in 1967, is not considered radical enough by these folks. The Free Press favors an additional $50 billion "Public Media Trust fund" financed by a tax on home electronic devices. It also wants the federally-funded AmeriCorps to finance jobs for journalists.
A new national broadband plan, combined with the just-announced FCC plan for "net neutrality," or regulating access to the Internet, provides the opportunity for the federal government to define a "new public square" with a "common space with shared facts," as Ornstein put it at the August 6 FCC event. He explained, "It's something that was easier when we had three broadcast channels and virtually everybody in the society tuned into them."
Those were the days, you may remember, when Walter Cronkite claimed "That's the way it is," and many people believed him. We know better now. But Ornstein seems to be pining for the "good old days" when Cronkite and other liberals dominated the dissemination of news and information.
These days we have conservative talk radio, Fox News, and alternatives to the "mainstream" media on the Internet. It is obvious that the Obama Administration and its progressive backers don't appreciate this new state of affairs.
Ornstein contrasted what can be, under federal direction, to what we are witnessing "now on health reform," when so many dissenting voices are being heard. He added, "It becomes much more difficult when you have a cacophonous system with fragmented areas of communication." And that "cacophony and fragmentation" is most apparent on the Internet, he said.
In other words, those naughty conservatives are standing in the way of Obama's health care reform plan.
While the Internet is apparently confusing people with too much information, Ornstein said that the Internet also offers "multiple opportunities" to "develop a public square." He made these remarks at an event presided over by Obama's FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. The assumption of the exercise was that the federal government, under the cover of a national broadband plan, should not only regulate the Internet but provide new media for the public.
Assisting Genachowski is Mark Lloyd, Associate General Counsel and chief diversity officer at the agency. Lloyd used to work at the Benton Foundation, which is assisting this effort and previously issued a report recommending that the Obama Administration "should adopt policies to ensure that all Americans" have the ability to:
· "Know when you need information to help resolve a problem;
· "Know from whom, when, where, and how to seek that needed information;
· "Know how to differentiate between authentic and unauthentic information;
· "Know how to organize information and interpret it correctly once retrieved; and
· "Know how to use the information to solve the problem or make the decision."
The idea of the federal government telling people how to "differentiate between authentic and inauthentic information" is frightening. But this is part of Benton's "Action Plan for America ."
Not surprisingly, the Benton home page features a tribute to the late Walter Cronkite from President Obama. Like Ornstein, it longs for the days when the liberal media dominated the news business.
Once Mark Lloyd left the Benton Foundation for the Center for American Progress, the two organizations collaborated on a letter demanding that the FCC require that broadcasters meet "public interest" obligations, provide access to the media by various groups, and "enhance political discourse." All of these measures are designed to give left-wing "progressives" more access to the media.
Now Lloyd is in a position to bring this about through federal regulation.
"What we really need in this country," Lloyd says, "is... a competitive alternative to commercial broadcasting" that would be supported by the public and "fully financed."
It sounds suspiciously like the "new public square" is the "public option" for the media. But so far there seems to be little debate or even discussion over what they have in store for us, and how they have already obtained $7.2 billion for this extreme makeover not only of our media but our system of government.