Posts Tagged ‘Federal Communications Commission’

A panic over replicated local TV news

Sinclair Broadcasting, currently under fire for having local news talent read a canned script, is itself the product of earlier rounds of anti-media-consolidation rules, and tales of “70 percent market share” tales are sheerest bunk, reports Matt Welch [Reason] On local use of canned scripts, see also the regular Conan feature “Newscasters Agree.”

Free speech roundup

  • “I believe in the First Amendment” and FCC has no authority to revoke licenses over newscast content, says commission chairman Ajit Pai [Jacob Sullum/Reason, earlier]
  • She stoops to censor: British Crown and her Wiltshire police are not amused by your tweets [Andrew Stuttaford, BBC via Helen Pluckrose on Twitter; earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.] Hate speech laws will in practice be used by the politically powerful against dissenters and radicals, part 761 [Guardian on case of woman questioned by detectives over banner denouncing conservative ruling party in Northern Ireland]
  • “Congress members threaten Twitter with regulation if it doesn’t suppress ‘racially divisive communications’ and ‘anti-American sentiments” [Eugene Volokh on bill introduced by Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)]
  • On the old “shouting fire in a crowded theater” trope, read this whole thread and then you won’t have to catch up later [Popehat on Twitter] Neither “extremist” speech nor “fake news” can be defined and identified closely enough for regulation to work [Cato Daily Podcast with Flemming Rose and Caleb Brown]
  • Encyclopedia of Libertarianism article on freedom of speech is by Alan Charles Kors;
  • “Screen Actors Guild Tells Court There’s Nothing Unconstitutional About Curbing IMDB’s Publication Of Facts” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; earlier here and here]

Trump: we’ll go after their broadcast licenses

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” — @realdonaldtrump Wednesday morning. Later that day he tweeted, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”

As was quickly pointed out [AP], the chances are extremely remote that presidential wrath is actually going to cost any broadcasters their licenses (networks as such are not licensed, but their local affiliates are, including network-owned local stations). First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams said that the threats could nonetheless have a chilling effect on coverage: “The threat, however unlikely, is one that broadcasters will have to take seriously.”

Note that the threat is utterly inconsistent with Trump’s having recently reappointed Ajit Pai to head the FCC. Had the chief executive seriously contemplated a drive against the broadcast licenses of his foes, as a 1960s-era president might have done, Washington is full of aspiring agency heads who would have served his ends better than free-marketeer Pai. Not for the first time, it would seem we have a President whose Twitter hand knows not what his signing hand is doing.

Matt Welch has already dug up a speech by Pai last month, as reported in Variety, that is to the point:

Pai said that he also sees “worrying signs” at the FCC, pointing to Twitter messages in which “people regularly demand that the FCC yank licenses from cable news channels like Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN because they disagree with the opinions expressed on those networks.”

“Setting aside the fact that the FCC doesn’t license cable channels, these demands are fundamentally at odds with our legal and cultural traditions,” Pai said.

John Samples reminds us of the bad bipartisan history of power plays aimed at broadcast speech, which didn’t work for Richard Nixon. David Harsanyi writes that “even if you’re not idealistic about free expression, it might be worth remembering that any laws or regulations you embrace to inhibit the speech of others, even fake-news anchors, can one day be turned on you.”

Of course, another theory one hears is that Trump doesn’t really mean it with his loose talk about curbing press freedom but is just, as it were, vice signaling.

Free speech roundup

  • Until late night talker Stephen Colbert became a target, many people didn’t realize the FCC looks into every complaint of on-air obscenity. Time to revisit that practice? [Amy B. Wang and Callum Borchers, Washington Post; Volokh]
  • First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams on his new book, The Soul of the First Amendment [Cato podcast, panel discussion with Abrams, Ronald Collins, and Ilya Shapiro, Roger Pilon moderating]
  • Worth a read: promote legal liability for speech and watch it come back to bite you, time and again [Jason Harrow, Take Care Blog on purported incitement by President Trump at his rallies]
  • Irish blasphemy investigation of comedian/actor Stephen Fry, though quickly dropped, prompts major political parties in New Zealand to pledge repeal of that nation’s blasphemy law [Independent, U.K.]
  • Singing legend Joan Baez on letting the other side have its say [Facebook post]
  • On the Macron email dump shortly before the French election, Will Saletan: “All advocates of limits on campaign speech should think about this: Law-abiders can’t respond, so lawbreakers have the field to themselves.”

Free speech roundup

  • Good news for Donald Trump! Sticking with speech-protective opinion rule, New York judge dismisses libel suit by PR consultant against him based on his derogatory tweets [ABA Journal]
  • “Jawboning” at FCC, under which media companies bend to commissioners’ wishes on content and hiring rather than risk their disapproval, should be recognized as danger to both First Amendment and rule of law [Brent Skorup and Christopher Koopman, Regulation via Cato Institute Tumblr summary]
  • The family of Ahmed Mohamed, of schoolboy clock fame, may have to pay $200,000 or more to targets of frivolous libel suits [Popehat]
  • Harsh epithets, calls for investigation and accusations of whitewashing, rhetorical comparisons to infamous persons could all lead to media liability if D.C. Court of Appeals reasoning in Michael Mann case isn’t overturned [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry, Cato, earlier]
  • NYC, San Francisco criminalize listing property on AirBnB except on authorized conditions. A question of commercial speech [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
  • Can Colorado regulate groups that run ads with the message “call your lawmaker to support this bill”? [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry]

August 5 roundup

  • Makes perfect sense: to make transportation more accessible to its residents, Montgomery County, Maryland orders 20 taxi companies to close down [Washington Post]
  • “New ‘Gainful Employment’ Rule Spells Trouble For For-Profit Law Schools (And Would For 50 Non-Profit Law Schools)” [Caron, TaxProf]
  • “To comply with a twisted interpretation of TCPA, Twitter would have to stop providing certain services altogether.” [Harold Furchtgott-Roth] “New FCC Rules Could Make Polling More Expensive, Less Accurate” [HuffPost Pollster]
  • To draft the unpassable bill: Scott Shackford on the politics and bad policy behind the omnibus LGBT Equality Act [Reason] “So How Can Anyone Be Opposed to Non-Discrimination Laws?” [Coyote] More: Establishment liberalism reluctant to admit it’s changed its thinking on religious accommodation, but that’s what’s happened [Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg View]
  • Update: “Court rejects claim over goat goring in Olympic National Park” [AP, earlier here and here]
  • “I would receive 100 other identical stories [from asylum seekers] with only the names changed.” [The Australian, 2013]
  • “Some protested that DNA testing amounted to a violation of canine privacy because dogs were not capable of consent.” [New York Times on Brooklyn condo dispute via @orinkerr]

Liability roundup

  • Analyzing the Norton Rose survey numbers: US business faced the most litigation, followed by UK, Canada had least [Above the Law, earlier]
  • Daimler doomsday? “Under the proposed law, any claim against a foreign company that registers with the New York secretary of state could be filed in New York courts, regardless of where the alleged wrongdoing took place or who was harmed.” [W$J, Alison Frankel last year, defense of bill]
  • BP Gulf spill: “Seafood companies owned by man previously convicted of fraud accused of perpetrating $3 million Deepwater Horizon fraud” [Louisiana Record]
  • “Facing Sanctions, Law Firm Tries To Block Interviews With Thalidomide Clients” [Daniel Fisher]
  • Litigation finance: speculator’s handling of Beirut car bombing payout raises eyebrows [W$J via Biz Insider]
  • “American Energy Companies Latest Victims of TCPA Lawsuit Abuse” [Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform] “FCC Has A New Robocall Ruling, And It Doesn’t Look Pretty for Business” [Henry Pietrkowski]
  • Bad US idea reaches Canada well after peaking here: “Tobacco companies ordered to pay $15B in damages” [CBC]

Free speech roundup

  • Long before North Korea “Interview” episode, Hollywood was caving repeatedly to power-wielders [Ron Maxwell, Deadline] Relevant: “A Tyranny of Silence,” new book by Danish-Muhammad-cartoons editor Flemming Rose published by Cato Institute [Kat Murti, earlier on the Danish cartoons, related Liberty and Law]
  • Score 1 for First Amendment, zero for Prof. Banzhaf as FCC rejects “Redskins” broadcast license attack [Volokh, earlier including the prof’s comment on that post]
  • Court dismisses orthopedist’s defamation suit against legal blogger Eric Turkewitz [his blog]
  • “Hate speech” notions reach the Right? Author claims “justice” would mean incitement “charges” vs. liberal talkers [Ira Straus, National Review]
  • Wisconsin prosecutors said to have eyed using John Doe law to aim warrants, subpoenas at media figures Sean Hannity, Charlie Sykes [Watchdog] More: George Leef on California vs. Americans for Prosperity;
  • “British journalist sentenced for questioning death toll in Bangladeshi independence war” [Guardian] Pakistan sentences Bollywood actress Veena Malik to 26 years for acting in supposedly blasphemous TV wedding scene [The Independent] Erdogan regime in Turkey rounds up opposition media figures [Washington Post editorial]
  • “Is it a crime to say things that make someone ‘lack self-confidence in her relations with the opposite sex and about her body-build’?” [Volokh; Iowa Supreme Court, affirmed on other grounds]

Cato online forum, “Reviving Economic Growth”

The panel is packed with big names and many of them offer suggestions with a law or regulation angle, including Philip K. Howard (“Radically Simplify Law”), Derek Khanna (rethink patent and copyright law; related, Ramesh Ponnuru), Morris Kleiner (reform occupational licensure; related, Steven Teles), Arnold Kling (“Sidestep the FCC and the FDA”), Robert Litan (admit more high-skill immigrants and reform employment of teachers; similarly on immigration, Alex Nowrasteh), Adam Thierer (emphasize “permissionless innovation”), and Peter Van Doren (relax zoning so to ease movement of workers to high-wage cities).

November 20 roundup

  • More Than You Wanted To Know: favorable review of new Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl Schneider book on failure of mandatory disclosure regimes [George Leef, Cato Regulation, PDF, related earlier here and here]
  • Colorful allegations: “Tampa lawyers can be questioned about DUI setup claims” [Tampa Bay Times]
  • Intimidation the new norm: FCC head blockaded at his D.C. home to pressure him into OKing net regulation scheme [Washington Post; related, Sen. Mary Landrieu because of her support for Keystone pipeline; earlier here, here, here, here (Boehner, Wal-Mart, etc.), here (businesspeople), here (SEIU and bankers), here (Boston teamsters), here (Google), etc.]
  • Speaking of net neutrality debate, Jack Shafer (“You can’t build a better Internet out of red tape”) and Richard Epstein;
  • “FAA’s Slow Pace Grounds U.S. Drone Makers” [Friends of Chamber]
  • OECD deal could smother tax shelter competition, which might be good for rulers, if not necessarily for the ruled [Alberto Mingardi]
  • “$100/month Upper East Side tenant loses suit to raze high-rise neighbor” and the best bit comes in the last sentence [NY Daily News]