Is the 1st Amendment in Existential Trouble? You Betcha!

By Paul S. Maxwell Paul Maxwell Report Archives

The trouble referred to in the headline is not just from the President with his “fake news” reflex judgment of stories he doesn’t like or his empty threats about NBC’s non-existing permission from the government to be a network or from a Nixon-like challenge of a station’s license to use public airways.  More importantly -- and quite scarily -- it’s coming from Republican voters. 

Here are some statistics from a poll the President actually thinks is truth:  Results of a Politico/Morning Consult poll showed some “76 percent (of Republican voters) think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one in five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority thinks they do not.  Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.”

Furthermore, “More than two-thirds of Democrats, 68 percent, think the federal government should not have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of those organizations.  But more Republicans, 46 percent, think the government should have that power than the third of GOP voters who don’t think so.”

Those numbers might not suggest how seriously some Republicans take the press – or, rather, dislike the press.  Here’s a story from Politico’s Morning Media: “Karen Marshall, Vice President of Programs for Gallatin County Republican Women, said she would have shot Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who was assaulted by Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte for asking him a question.  Marshall made the comment on the Voice of Montana radio program, according to The Guardian.

Of note:  Ms. Marshall has since resigned her position, which I suppose is some kind of comfort.  But considering that she was talking about shooting a reporter for asking a question ... well, the comfort is pretty darn cold.

Random Notes

Is Netflix repeating a cable blunder?  Annually raising rates to cover the costs of new programming has made cable the enemy of everyday Americans.  I wonder how many years it will take R. Hastings to re-learn that?

Yes, we have no bananas?  Hope you’ve caught CNN’s new ad with an apple right in the middle of the screen.  It says: “This is an apple.  Some people might try to tell you that it's a banana.  They might scream 'banana, banana, banana' over and over again.  They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana.  But it's not."  The screen then shows: “Facts First.”  Seems a bit late, though.

Wandering around the Society of Cable TV Engineers (SCTE) a week or so ago, one question kept recurring: When is a cable company not a “cable” company?  Well, right now.  We need some new defining words.  All of the Multichannel Video Program Distributors (MVPDs) are not just that.  And they haven’t been for a decade or so.  They are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) first and foremost.  Video is fast becoming a loss leader and one aspect of the new bundle.  And that new bundle includes Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), smart home and alarm services.  And, of course, the premium “cable” nets … many of which are moving to a retail model in addition to their long-time wholesale model.  That’s just one existential threat; so, time to look at some ways to get the retailers (that includes the FANG guys!) to pay to be distributed.

The Federal Confusion Commission’s November meeting will have some fireworks involving the Advanced Television System Committee’s 3.0 proposal (ATSC 3.0), media ownership and more.  Stay tuned.

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