Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jay Leno, Public Menace

Some rather goofy news: Democratic congressman Xavier Becerra has filed a complaint against Jay Leno for having Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a guest without having his Democratic rival Phil Angelides on as well, thus violating the federal "equal time" rule which requires TV stations to give equal amounts of time to rival candidates for public office. (Needless to say, this is a privilege exclusively enjoyed by the reigning duopoly.) Here's the quote from the article that I'd like to zero in on:

"Use of the broadcast spectrum is granted as a public trust," Becerra wrote in the complaint filed on Angelides' behalf. "It is not to be used to favor certain candidates."

The article also notes that the networks stopped airing Schwarzenegger's movies while he was running for governor to avoid falling afoul of the equal time clause. This highlights something important: The notion that the airwaves are or ought to be "public" (i.e. government) property is incompatible with freedom of speech. If the airwaves rightly belong to the government, what's so objectionable about government control of what is said or done on those airwaves? After all, virtually no one objects to the fact that various government bodies regulate activities on public roads, in government buildings, on military bases, etc. So why not thegovernment-owned broadcast frequencies?

Ironically, it usually seems to be liberals, who purport to be the country's great advocates of free expression, who seem to put the most stock in the idea of the "public airwaves." Of course, it's hardly the first time liberals in this country have undercut their own alleged ideals.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: