The fellows who brought us this grand experiment in self-government we know as America were big, I mean really BIG, on a free press. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.”
Today most of us get our news from TV; we listen to radio in our cars; fewer and fewer read the paper. There is no problem with that, per se, just that TV and radio are not as free under the First Amendment as newspapers are because the government, through the FCC, regulates TV and radio.
I bring this up because such trivial matters make a difference in the real world. A TV station in Bismarck, North Dakota has pulled a spot by the American Conservative Union critical of Senator Kent Conrad’s stance on Social Security. This was done at the fervent urging of, you guessed it, Senator Kent Conrad. Before talking to the senator, the TV station deemed the ad fit for broadcast, but afterwards, no.
Often there’s a controversy over ads portraying an officeholder’s position. But the public isn’t stupid. We can sort out bogus arguments from the truth provided all sides are free to speak. But today, powerful incumbents throw their weight around with broadcasters whom they ultimately regulate and effectively silence speech. Today, Senator Conrad’s ad is running countering the ACU ad he had removed from your TV set.
Kerri Houston of ACU says, “The senator seems to think that the First Amendment only applies to him.” The scariest thing is how right he is.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.