THE BLOG
09/12/2006 01:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Remember Pearl Harbor, the Main, and the First Amendment

It was in the late 60's that the FCC was in the middle of putting a politically motivated bullet into a part of the business of the three broadcast networks by passing what was referred to as the Prime Time Access Rule (PTAR) along with the Financial Interest and Syndication rule, (Fin/Syn).
I bring this up as an unhappy parallel to what is going on today. The Nixon administration was upset at the networks for their criticism of the War in Vietnam, yet today's over the air broadcasters remain silent as to the transgressions of the Bush administration concerning today's war in Iraq. How times, "they are a changing."

I was working for CBS Enterprises that was to be morphed into Viacom by these rules, and my boss Ralph Baruch allowed me to be our division's representative to the group of lawyers that were charged with defending CBS concerning these pending rule changes. For them it was an exercise, for me it was my career.

It was late at night when I made a passionate speech to the lawyers about the unfairness of Fin/Syn, the errors in the FCC fact finding, press freedom and such when Dick Jenks, the General Council of the company put me in place by telling me, in front of all the lawyers, that HE was the General Council of CBS, not me, and would I please sit down and keep quiet. Things are still the same for me over 35 years later, except different people are telling me to sit down and be quiet.

The issues at the time were political, and little to do with the proposed regulations or the reasons given for having them. The networks lost the fight, and President Nixon won, and it was meant to be that way.

A little of our free press was eroded by that ruling which had a subtext of "mess with the administration at your own peril cause we make the rules, and we have a bunch of them ready to be used on you if you guys continue to be critical of my war."

It was difficult then, as it is for me today to accept that almost all that goes on in the regulatory process is political.

Things are organized by the regulators to follow the whims or at best the wishes of the President. Fairness, reasonableness, and equity, and at times law have little to do with the regulatory process concerning the media. It had little to do with it then, and probably has less to do with it now. The very "BIG" guys seem to act in concert with the President in a "you won't hurt me and I won't hurt you" process.

Here is part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press..."

Freedom of the press means "freedom of the press." The Walt Disney/ABC production and presentation of "The Path to 9/11" is covered by the first amendment, and ABC can present it any way it chooses to as long as it is not presented as a documentary,(different stuff). My opinion is, should you think that you will not be pleased by the content presented by ABC, DON'T WATCH IT.

It is bad enough that the religious right has jumped on the "obscenity" bandwagon and has had a stifling effect on the creativity of the broadcast media. (Yeh, I know that there are others who dislike bad language too).

Let us on the left not compound this horror by demanding that we suspend the first amendment of our constitution because we are unhappy with the content presented by ABC with their "The Path to 911." broadcast.

Publishers of content in our country need not seek the concurrence of the public when publishing what they choose to publish, nor should they seek concurrence of the government.

Most importantly however, they should not be threatened by the regulators when the regulators are not happy with the content, even when the content is, (heaven forbid), sexual in nature.

The "big guys" CBS, News Corp, Time Warner, General Electric, and the Walt Disney Company have too much power, but let us not attempt to reduce that power by further encroaching on our constitution.

Norman Horowitz
Spelling does not count!