A reining in of the political media should be expected under a nation-state model

Forbes reported today about a statement of work issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on 3 April 2018.  The statement of work seeks prospective vendors capable of providing the Department’s National Protection and Programs Acquisition Division with the capabilities to monitor traditional and social media. The specific objective of the services is:

“Services shall enable NPPD/OUS to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.”

The statement of work does not get into any specifics as to why the Department would need such a program. It could be one of three reasons. One reason could be a push back by the Trump Administration on what it calls “fake news.” Mr Trump has shown a disdain for what he terms as unfair reporting typically from media perceived to be left leaning. He has no love for CNN, a lack of love expressed with so much disdain that he came out against the Time Warner-AT&T merger, one that is now being challenged by the Trump Justice Department.

The second reason for the proposed statement of work may be to create another tool for dealing with the media attacks a Russian troll service has been accused of. By monitoring media influencers, the United States could make a preemptive strike against journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, etc., that spread fake news and set the stage for divisiveness in American politics.

The third reason I see is that the political media has to be reined in by the nation-state. Part of the nation-state’s political ordering of and for society should include keeping the collective in order by controlling the messaging. While some spin is allowed in order for news organizations to establish some type of brand differentiation, i.e., MSNBC leans liberally forward while FOX is conservatively fair and questionably balanced, the general messages issued by the nation-state via the political media must be uniform enough to keep the masses in line or distracted. Too much spin to the left or to the right creates chaos in the collective, a disturbance in the force that the nation-state cannot afford.

I believe reason three is the purpose for the Department’s statement of work. Some Americans may see the proposal as an attack on a free press, but has the press ever really been free? Except for the occasional “breaking news” (which amounts to a press secretary given their favorite reporter or a reporter they can use the first shot at a story), most political news is initiated by a state actor with the media being tasked for commercial and political reasons for distributing it.

Probably over the weekend we may see some discussion on the meaning of a “free press.” Given that this story is not even trending on Twitter anymore has me wondering how seriously the media is taking the Department’s action.

Voluntary market agreements not FCC should create incubators.

The Federal Communications Commission today issued a notice of proposed rulemaking as a first step toward creating an incubator program for disadvantaged groups that want to enter the television and radio broadcast industries. According to the Commission, “Such a program would seek to encourage new and diverse broadcast station owners by drawing on the technical expertise and/or financial assistance of existing broadcasters.”

The NPRM also seeks comment from the public on how best to structure and implement the program.

The State via the Commission has a monopoly on access to spectrum. It has the force of law behind this monopoly. It should, for the sake of bond holders, pursue policies that help increase returns on the spectrum that it licenses to private companies. The better broadcast companies perform i.e. attract listeners and views and sell advertisement, the more taxable income for the State and continued flow of income to bond holders.

I don’t see this incubator program doing that. It is a pure political move. It is designed to keep the barbarians aka social justice warriors from knocking down the gate. The Commission has been holding the warriors off since the Clinton Administration by not following through on recommendations to institute such programs. It appears now, with this NPRM, that they are trying to give the impression of progress on the issue of diversity.

They should save their strength.

Any incubation for future broadcast station owners can be done in the private sector. Potential and existing broadcast station owners can enter into voluntary agreements to exchange expertise and financial assistance in exchange for a piece of a minority owner’s action. It should be up to a potential minority owner to explain the economic and financial value that an existing broadcast station owner can glean from an investment in a minority-owned station or outright sale of an existing station to a minority-owned firm.

Think of the decision rule the British Empire imposed on itself when it decided to decolonize. The second world war drained the Empire of resources. Holding on to territories in Africa and the Caribbean was expensive, so they cut a deal with these protectorates. We’ll prepare you for independence and you’ll give us a piece of the economic action.

This is the model that existing broadcast station owners and potential minority-owned firms should enter. Where the existing owner wants to off-load a station and a minority firm shows it can bring value, then they can enter an exchange. The State via the Commission need not involve itself by establishing incubator programs.