Writing in Broadcasting & Cable as chairman of the American Business Leadership Institute, the gifted Adonis Hoffman* suggests that business has nothing to fear from an Obama Administration.
Some early tests of Hoffman’s thesis will come in that corner of the nation’s economy that we care about most — the media and communications sector. Three distinct issues come immediately to mind: consolidation, content regulation, and net neutrality.
Unless you’ve been in a coma, or trapped inside Free Press (which is pretty much the same thing), you’re aware of the pit into which much of the print and broadcast media are falling. You also know that the proximate cause of their problems is the Internet, and the damage it has done to publishers’ and broadcasters’ business plans.
For all of this, you’re also aware of one other thing: that however much professional journalists and entertainers may disappoint, they are an essential part of any well-functioning democracy.
So given all of this, why would anyone want to deny broadcasters and publishers such business opportunities as may obtain these days through consolidation? It’s not, after all, as though we’re talking about marrying companies that are triumphant and unstoppable. Just the opposite. In many smaller communities especially, we‘re talking about companies that are on the cusp of oblivion. And while it’s hard to make the case that inter- or intra-industry consolidation comprises a solution to the crisis facing broadcasters and publishers, neither is it easy to make the argument that it wouldn’t help on the margins.
In a recent interview, Kevin Martin, whose chairmanship of the FCC has been indelibly marked by his passion for content controls, is said to have made “no apologies for his indecency enforcement, saying it was for the sake of children. He adds that food marketing and media violence are two other places he thinks the government may need to step in….”
And so much for anything and everything to do with personal responsibility, the First Amendment, and the quaint idea that the people who own businesses are in the best position to know how to run them.
Depending on how Obama and his appointees come down on this issue, future programming decisions may well be made not by people whose primary interest is in creativity or profits, but in politics — thereby opening the door to every special interest and single-issue fanatic with designs on TV, and through it, on you.
(Next in "Obama and the Media, Part II": Net neutrality.)
*Adonis Hoffman is a member of The Media Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council.