The Battle for Media Freedom, Part 4: The Cyber-Collectivist Blueprint for Control

by Adam Thierer on July 26, 2010

In Part 1 of this series, I defined what real media freedom is all about. In Part 2, I discussed the rising “cyber-collectivist” threat to real media freedom and, in Part 3, I provided a more detailed explanation of the “conflict of visions” that separates the media-liberty movement and the cyber-collectivist crowd. This installment will breifly outlne the cyber-collectivist plan of action.

Once one accepts the central tenets of the cyber-collectivist movement, it’s easy to understand the policy blueprint that follows. Again, it comes down to greater political control.  More specifically, it comes down to having the collective (they say “society”) take control over not necessarily the entire means of production, but rather the means of decision-making throughout our digital economy and modern media marketplace.

The cyber-collectivists focus on a 4-prong plan of attack (itemized in order of importance):

(1) Media policy control

  • Goal: Gain greater control / influence over media platforms and media outcomes. If you can control the size, shape, and ownership status of the soapbox, you ultimately can control what is said (or not said) on that soapbox, or who even gets to stand on it.
  • Methods of control:  Media ownership restrictions; “localism” mandates; “right-of-reply” schemes or Fairness Doctrine-like mandates; affirmative action media set-asides; campaign financing restrictions; merger conditions; greatly enhanced public media subsidies or welfare for journalists.

(2) Communications infrastructure control (both wireline & wireless)

  • Goal: Control over communications infrastructure is an extension of the media policy battle. It is easier to control media and ensure “fairer” outcomes when you undercut private ownership of networks and transfer decision-making authority to the State.
  • Methods of control: “Net neutrality” regulations; structural separation requirements; municipal ownership; price controls, merger conditions.

(3) Intellectual property restrictions

  • Goal: Advocate strict limits on copyright and patents to move toward a “commons” for intellectual creations. This will help undermine private property rights, which have been crucial part of keeping media free of excessive government subsidy.
  • Methods of control: Limitations on damages; denial of enforcement efforts; efforts to block private contractual deals to fight piracy; expansive public domain and “fair use” notions (to the point of making fair use the default that trumps copyright).

(4) Advertising / marketing restrictions

  • Goal: Advocate strict limits on advertising, marketing, and data collection. As with IP restrictions, this will help undermine the economic engine that powers free and independent media.
  • Methods of control: Limits on advertising placement or timing; children’s advertising restrictions; preferential rates for campaign commercials; limitations on data collection for “privacy” purposes; outright bans on certain categories of advertising.

In forthcoming essays, I will put more meat on the bones of each of these agenda items.

The Battle for Media Freedom, Part 4: The Cyber-Collectivist Blueprint

Previous post:

Next post: