That’s the Supreme Court’s definition of the Freedom of the Press, and under that definition, a reasonable person would state that we no longer have it.
Events to consider, in reverse order of magnitude:
[ol][li]Banning T-Shirts that are “pro-peace” as “disturbing the peace.” This may be considered a freedom of expression issue, but it is also a restricted semi-public commercial space where the restriction is on content. [/li][li]Phil Donahue’s show was ranked higher then prime-time Hardball, and trending upwards. He was plausibly canned because his corporate owners, MSNBC were worried about appearing unpatriotic. (Bill Maher was canned for similar, though less definitive reasons. His comments caused sponsors to withdraw, and his ratings were tending downwards.)[/li][li]Several anti-war groups had their advertisements turned down for no or patently ridiculous reasons. The “virtual march” from this Feb. 26th was barred from placing ads in many local publications – yet the pro-war viewpoint is given saturation coverage. There were at least two billboards rejected for spurious reasons. (Conversations, no link as of yet)[/li][li]Caltrans, the California State department of transportation has been sued over their tearing down anti-war banners from overpasses, as safety concerns, but leaving American Flags. Again, perhaps the overpass would be considered speech, not a publishing venue, but it’s still an amazing trespass.[/li][li]Clearchannel Radio, the poster child for deregulation, raises a panoply of freedom of press issues. At what point should we protect local voices from being homogenized and yoked to the corporate message? As a case in point, you may recall that CC sent a list to its member stations, deeming them “questionable” in the new age of terrorism. They’re very sweet to be worried – it’s like they’re a big brother to me…[/li][li]In tone and coverage of the protests, the national news has been uniform. Uniformly ignoring, minimizing and belittling what is a mass segment (or even, dare I say, a majority) of the American people. There is no counter-weight to Fox News when they lead with the handful of violent incidents at the largest protest since Vietnam, calling it “tens of thousands of protesters.” In my experience, the figures provided by the protest organizers are slightly exaggerated, while the police estimate is ridiculously low-balled. Yet the US press tends to use the least accurate figure; forcing me towards foreign news to get unbiased information.[/ol][/li]
The reasons for this encroachment, to me, seem simple. While we live in an ostensibly Democratic country, with the freedom of press and publication, the Press lives in a corporate controlled world. There are fewer and fewer media outlets with a national reach – and they are effectively bribed by the government in the form of poaching a public resource for fire-sale prices (bandwidth) and frequent mergers which increase profits; have political ads bought at jacked-up prices bought by money donated to the candidate of their choice; cajoled by controlled access to officials and soldiers alike; silenced by the web of corporate back-scratching in which their bosses are involved; in some cases, their bosses are ex-Republican media advisers who still send advice now and then. How nice.
And in the face of the ongoing mergers and cross-ownership of our presses which further reduce the chances of independent media allowing non-approved voices, and multiplies the already plentiful conflicts of interest, the FCC, with Colin’s son, Michael Powell in charge, is to set back further the merger rules.
It is my contention, as sustained through the information I’ve made available to you, that the Government (and mostly the conservatives) are and have been waging an ongoing war to suppress the freedom of the press by allowing monopolistic power to make it onerously costly to have an independent voice, to drive that voice out of the market – a voice they cannot control.