Austin Hill

Is the United States about to face a constitutional challenge?

As we near completion of the first two weeks since Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, the path is being established for what I believe could be a serious challenge to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and the right to free speech that is protected therein. Any American who cares about such freedoms should be watching and listening very carefully. Unfortunately, it appears to me that most Americans are not.

As of late, much attention has been paid to the possibility of our federal government re-instating the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” a regulatory policy that, earlier last century, required federally licensed broadcast outlets to present “important” and “controversial” subjects in a “balanced” and “equitable” fashion. The lifting of this regulation allowed for entertaining, highly opinionated, individual hosts to proliferate, thus giving rise to the media genre we know as “conservative talk radio” (it has also allowed for the emergence of “liberal talk radio,” although thus far this genre has not been as commercially successful as its conservative counterpart).

On June 29th of this year, I authored a column wherein I suggested that the antiquated “Fairness Doctrine” might be the least of our concerns. I further surmised that a President Obama and a Democratically controlled Congress may pursue something I termed “comprehensive media reform” - - a much broader, all-inclusive attempt to more fully regulate media content and ownership. I believe the stage is now set for such an effort. I’m imagining a rather sophisticated public relations campaign that would play out in the context of “experts” testifying before the next Congress, and “research” that would be reviewed in congressional investigations.

I envision something on the order of what the Clinton Administration and the Democratically controlled Congress did to tobacco companies back in the 90’s, only with broadcasting executives, and perhaps owners of web-based media outlets, being subpoenaed to answer questions under sworn oath.

Some will object to this comparison, given that tobacco is a verifiably dangerous product, and opinion based media is constitutionally protected. But I’m not assuming that factual truth, or constitutionality, matter to members of Congress.

Austin Hill

Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.