Anyone laboring under the misimpression that the First Amendment of the Constitution would prevent the Congress from heading down the road the British Parliament has gone down of judging whether one newspaper owner or another is a "fit person" may want to have a look at the November 30 letter to the Federal Communications Commission from nine members of the United States Senate.
Just as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. goes through a corporate split that will allow it to pursue assets such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, the senators have suddenly come out emphatically in favor of "localism" and against "mass consolidation" in the media industry. If there was any doubt about who the senators — Sanders, Leahy, Harken, Boxer, Murray, Wyden, Franken, Tester, and Merkley — have in mind, Senator Sanders, the self-described socialist from that media capital known as Vermont, gave up the game when he mentioned News Corp. by name at a recent press conference.
You don't have to be a fan of Fox News to realize that this makes a mockery of the rule of law. Instead of letting anyone who wants to buy a newspaper or a television or radio station do so, or even instead of setting up some rules that take into account modern technology like cable television and Internet video and that would apply equally to everyone, the Senate Democrats, or the Independent Vermont Socialist-caucusing-with-Democrats and his Democratic pals, want to write the country's media ownership rules starting from the premise of how can we prevent Rupert Murdoch from buying anything else.
Senator Sanders, or someone on his staff, is apparently familiar enough with new media that his press conference is available on YouTube. The idea that ownership of a television station or two in the same market as a newspaper or a radio station amounts to a media monopoly in the age of YouTube and the Internet is laughable. It shows that what they are really out to do is not fight against media monopolization — a straw man — but to try to restrain the influence of Mr. Murdoch. If that's really their goal, a more appropriate way of pursuing it in a free country would be for them to quit the Senate and go buy or start media companies to compete with Mr. Murdoch. The best check on a media monopoly, after all, isn't regulation, it's competition.