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FEC Comments

Jun
28
2005

Well, I’m stuck on the other side of the country so I can’t lend my two cents to the Federal Election Commission hearings on regulation of Internet communication. Like the Grokster decision, the FEC’s rulemaking is another case of politics colliding with technology.
And, like the Supreme Court decision on Grokster, no one’s happy about the FEC, either. Most of the comments on this site have centered around the arrogance that a lot of bloggers have about conflict-of-interest habits that press folks follow. As a result of that post, I got this thoughtful note from PE Byrd. It’s edited a bit and I don’t agree with Byrd about everything he says. But his comments on the ways in which Big Media have shirked their responsibility is a good one.

Some points/questions re: KOS. I respect what KOS has done – a lot of hard work – and he is committed. He is a hot head – and perhaps for justifiable reasons, but I don’t think he has the right end of the stick here.
1) He is clearly working to build to new media company – the blog/community is the first thing – he’s added advertising, he will probably add video, etc. At some point he does look like a new-style media organization. He does have a point that he is entitled to the same treatment as the traditional media.


2) More importantly, I think the point is not whether you raise money, but how you spend it. If KOS wants to be a media company and raise money and spend it getting stories – well OK. But just as Time/Warner must disclose their campaign contributions (I assume it does have to do so), so would KOS, right? [Note: Actually, candidates disclose expenditures and contributions on a quarterly basis in non-election years, monthly during elections. That's how payments to Sen. John Thune's supporter-bloggers were discovered.]
3) KOS makes a mistake when he conflates “media” with “press”. He rightly says “literally anyone and EVERYONE is now media” (well maybe not EVERYONE), but that does not mean that anyone and EVERYONE is the press.
4) I disagree with Carol Darr, director of George Washington Univeristy’s Center Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, on the idea that other press status will diminish – such as the shield laws. Don’t see how those dots connect, and saying “a change in the rules defining the news media in one arena is bound to affect other laws.” is not an argument. I mean, the rules that allowed the repeal of fair play didn’t result in the repeal of shield laws.
5) I think the point here is the classic wall that separates editorial from commercial has been considerable weakened over the years, and that folks like KOS either don’t want to create that wall (after all it is a pain to setup/administer), or feel it has been abused by big media, so why be held
to a more pure standard?
As far as the payment/subsidy issue you raise – if the issue isn’t political contributions and their source, then the KOS argument might be that he is another private citizen who is building his personal network. It’s certainly natural that he would do business with people that have similar political views and that at some point he would be in a position to endorse/support them through his site. But it’s also pretty easy to infer a value to an endorsement/access and claim that as a political contribution,
regardless of whether funds actually traded hands for that particular event. I’m not trying to be naïve – certainly people are engaging with KOS for potential access – but that’s what people do in a variety of settings (political, business, social) – the question is how do you regulate this activity/make it transparent when we haven’t had that from the traditional media for a very long time.
It seems we are holding bloggers to a higher standard – how would you reasonably expect someone to track and report their networking activities when you really don’t know when/if your political/social favors are going to be called in? We can’t even get reasonable transparency on political donations and lobbying activities – so we focus on blogging consultants.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 8:29 AM | Permalink

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