In a Bloomberg View column, William Cohan rehashes the controversy over the PBS "Park Avenue" documentary and the Koch brothers, which was covered here earlier. The column is headlined "David Koch's Chilling Effect on Public Television" and concludes, "just like that, in this insidious way -- a film censored here, some phone records seized there -- the freedoms that we once took for granted and thought were guaranteed by our Constitution are slowly but surely eroded. This can't be a good thing."
Sorry, but it's not "censorship" when a television station or network decides not to fund or air a documentary. If the editors at Bloomberg View don't understand this, imagine that I pitched them a weekly column about the failures of Michael Bloomberg's performance as mayor of New York, for which I would be paid $4,000 a column. If they said, "Thanks for the offer, but we're going to take a pass on your proposal," is that censorship or a chilling effect? Of course not. Nothing is stopping me from complaining about Michael Bloomberg on my own Web site, or at the Web site of some other news outlet that wants to run the column. But it doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution that Michael Bloomberg has to pay me to criticize him, any more than it says David Koch should be forced to underwrite documentaries that attack him and his company.
The freedom in the First Amendment is a prohibition on Congress from making laws that interfere with the freedom of the press; it's not a prohibition on the owner or the manager of a news organization, or a donor to the organization, from exercising editorial judgment or discretion. If Mr. Cohan, or the makers of the anti-Koch film, thought that the Constitution guarantees the right of every filmmaker to have his documentary funded and aired on PBS, they can't have read the Constitution or thought about it with much care.