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Obama vs McCain on Media Policy

17 September 2008 No Comment
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What does Obama & McCain say about Media policy? What is media policy?

The two camps have differences in opinion on how to deal with media. Considering media is the medium in which much of our worldview and opinions are formed, this is a discussion worth having. The main question that is at play is what kind of role does the government play in overseeing the companies that control the media and the type of information that is shared publicly.

To summarize in one sentence each, Obama’s camp believes that the government should have an active role in controlling the potential for abuse. McCain’s camp believes it is best to let the market regulate themselves in providing a healthy information sharing environment.

An article in Slate Magazine covers a lot of these details. Some quotes below.

“Powell [McCain’s Principle Advisor] and McCain believe it’s better to approach the media industries in basically the same way as any other industry, with the implication that media consolidation is a natural process best left alone… [they] believe that trying to prevent media consolidation and attempts to favor “good” content will tend to backfire.”

The Obama camp starts from the premise that the media and information industries are special—that like the transportation, energy, or financial industries, they are deeply entwined with the public interest. That means they warrant a level of scrutiny. Why? Control over media and communications, the argument goes, translates too readily into political power and influence over speech.”



“Ultimately, most of the difference in Obama’s and McCain’s media policies boils down to questions about whether the media is special and a dispute over how much to trust the private sector. Camp McCain would tend to leave the private sector alone, with faith that it will deliver to most Americans what they want and deserve. The Obama camp would probably administer a more frequent kick in the pants, in the belief that good behavior just isn’t always natural.”

Full Disclosure
To be fair, the writer who wrote the article above discloses that he is in favor Obama’s policy but did a decent job in trying to stay objective though as all written materials are, you can see the influence of the writer’s stance by the way the information is presented. One example is the fact that I am certain that most of McCain’s camp doesn’t think good behavior is natural. They are simply stating that the market has a way of forcing things back to the norm. However it is stated that Obama’s camp would administer “more frequent kicks” and believe that “good behavior isn’t always natural”, I mean who wouldn’t agree with that statement? I read that and feel suddenly in favor with Obama’s camp since I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. Having said that I don’t think that was done intentionally.

More Question to Consider
My personal opinion is mixed. I agree with Obama’s camp that good behavior isn’t natural and regulations should be in place. I agree with McCain’s camp that the market does has a way of correcting itself to the demands of the market and has it’s own built in regulations. However the questions that come up in my mind are…

1) Is what Americans “want and deserve” really what is best for the American people?
2) How do we determine how much power we should give the government in inserting influence into public sectors? Where do you draw the line? How do you determine which industries are special enough to warrant regulating?

The first question is what really worries me. The fact that we even have to discuss whether we need to regulate companies or people in power should already tip us off on the fact that “good behavior” is not natural. In other words we as people, tend to do what we desire or want which doesn’t necessarily equate to what is good. This definitely applies to media companies but I believe it’s the same with all people. What people “want and deserve” are going to be based on their preferences and less on what is right and wrong. For McCain’s camp I ask whether letting the market dictate what we access and what we see, is that really the best thing for us when what we want is often shaped by media to begin with? For Obama’s camp, on what basis do we go about measuring what is good for the public when determining regulations?

What if a powerhouse media company decided to block all the porn sites? What is your stance there? What if a powerhouse media company decided to block NBC because it felt their shows were not wholesome? What if it blocked it because it just wasn’t as profitable for them? Is your stance going to be the same in all these cases? Should it be? Does the government have the right to regulate on all of these situations? Some of the situations?

If the market is left alone to decide, NBC will have to change the content of it’s shows if it wants to be shown in that network and not miss out on those viewers. Meanwhile the media company will have to be willing to deal with the backlash and the loss of consumers. If they can’t, they’ll have to relent. So there is some merit that in some situations the market can correct itself. Does the government have the right to enter in the picture and force something to happen at this point? Is it different if it’s a matter of profits or morality? What if the natural market correction period takes years? What about the damage it could cause along the way? Should the government step in then at that point?

Final Notes
Just to be clear I am not an expert in politics. I just want to share information as I come across them and pose some questions for others to think about. If you have more information or a strong opinion about this matter with some good facts to back it up, please share in the comments section. I am more than happy to be “educated” into a strong a stance.

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