A recent Campaign for Free Speech poll, finding widespread hostility among the American public to free speech and free press, is cause for concern. But it’s not just the mainstream press, such as TV and print media, that Americans are skeptical of. Podcasts and blogs are under threat, as well.
According to the poll, 36% of Americans would support a federal agency reviewing the content of alternative media such as podcasts. Less than half—47%–disagree with this; 16% are unsure. (Click here for the full results of our CFS polling data)
Think about that for a second.
Many Americans (of various political stripes) don’t trust elements of the mainstream media. One option of becoming an independent voice is to start your own blog, online streaming channel, or podcast. It allows you to get your own opinions out in public and cover newsworthy issues that may not get coverage in your local paper or on cable news.
Do we really want a government bureaucracy involved in screening alternative media? And do we need one?
While these “alternative” media sources may not have the same editorial process as a traditional print newspaper, they do have legal responsibility and liabilities. They can be sued for libel or defamation, much like any other person or company, if they say something false that harms someone’s reputation.
And socially, if a podcast or blog is consistently incorrect, or espouses an extreme viewpoint, they can be criticized by other media and members of the public.
The alternative—getting the government to screen podcasts and blogs—is loaded with far more negatives. Inevitably, the power of the federal government could be used to censor independent media.
Moreover, it exposes blogs and podcasts (the “little guys”) to political pressure—say, from well-connected large companies that don’t like the competition, or from influential politicians who don’t want scrutiny.
Independent, alternative, and grassroots media has provided all kinds of interesting content and important investigative reports. Like free speech generally, it’s not perfect, but it’s the best system.