Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A new Zogby poll shows Americans across the political spectrum reject government intrusion into how they get their news and information.
Americans overwhelmingly agreed: no government control of the Internet, no “Fairness Doctrine” managing talk radio and if newspaper companies fail as a profitable means of disseminating news, then let them die, because Americans will not support a bailout.
Commissioned by the O’Leary Report, the Zogby poll of 3,937 voters in the last election asked questions about measures proposed by various legislators to make the country’s news outlets more “fair” or more “safe.”
For example, as WND reported, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have co-sponsored S. 773, a bill that would give the U.S. government authority over all online networks considered part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Under the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, as the bill is called, the president would have the authority to shut down Internet traffic to protect national security in case of a “cyber” emergency, though the proposed legislation fails to define what constitutes an “emergency.”
According to poll results, 81.8 percent of Americans reject the idea, while only 5 percent support it, and opposition is largely bipartisan. Of those who cast a vote for Obama last November, 70 percent oppose the Cybersecurity Act, and 95 percent of those who voted for McCain join in opposition to the bill.
Legislators’ plans to insert government regulation over radio and newspapers were likewise rejected.
The Zogby poll showed 66 percent of Americans reject a priority currently proposed by the White House to promote “localism” and “diversity” in talk radio, a plan some have called a back-door approach to reinstating the “Fairness Doctrine.” And when asked about federal bailouts for the floundering newspaper industry, Americans rejected the idea by a ratio of 78.9 percent opposed to only 8.7 percent in favor.
“The assault on the First Amendment that is being planned by the government and the extremist left is not limited to their desire to silence conservative talk radio,” writes WND columnist and syndicated radio host Roger Hedgecock. “Newspapers and television are not immune to the anti-First Amendment efforts that are at work here. In addition, the Internet is also a target for receiving the restrictive aspects of the so-called ‘fairness doctrine.’”
A statement from Hedgecock and the newly formed American Radio Free Speech Foundation declares, “When the public is informed about what is happening behind the scenes to threaten their First Amendment rights, they will be outraged.”
The results of the Zogby poll suggest Hedgecock may be right, as both Republicans and Democrats opposed legislators’ proposals to regulate media outlets.
For example, the poll asked, “Sen. John Kerry has called for Senate hearings on failing newspapers. Do you think the government should bailout the newspaper industry?”
Sixty percent of Democrats said no, 84 percent of independents said no and 97 percent of Republicans joined the stand against newspaper bailouts.
When asked about the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, the responses were even closer. Among Republicans, 92 percent rejected the bill, along with 87 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats.
Only 9.7 percent of Democrats, 1.4 percent of Republicans and 2.9 percent of independents support it.
On the issue of the “Fairness Doctrine,” Democratic voters diverged somewhat from Republican and independent voters, who rejected it by a wide margin. Among Democrats, the issue was fairly evenly split, with 41.5 percent approving advisory boards in the name of “localism” and “diversity” monitoring what is said on radio, and 37.8 percent opposed.
Only when Zogby included in the question the names of popular talk show hosts considered to be “conservative” did Democrats and Republicans give widely different answers.
Zogby asked, “Senator Durbin recently offered an amendment in the U.S. Senate that requires the Federal Communications Commission to take actions to encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership. Opponents say the move would threaten the breakup of radio networks that largely carry conservative talk radio shows like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Do you support or oppose this legislation?”
While 88 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents still opposed the idea, 70 percent of Democrats said they would favor the legislation.
As WND reported, this past weekend, representatives of more than two dozen of the nation’s top talk shows held an unprecedented private meeting to discuss efforts by federal legislators to intervene in radio, newspapers and the Internet, plans the attendees agreed represent government plans by to squelch First Amendment rights.
Organized by Brad O’Leary, author of the new book, “Shut Up, America! The End of Free Speech,” and Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, the group chose Hedgecock to be spokesman and chairman of a new coalition legally formed as The American Radio Free Speech Foundation.
The coalition created a website, Don’t Touch My Dial, to serve as a clearinghouse of information on the threat to talk radio under the name American Radio Free Speech.
“This issue – and the urgent need for a broad-based, aggressive coalition to fight back – is much bigger than talk radio, and much more dangerous than an effort to simply silence a few voices that the current administration dislikes,” says Hedgecock. “This fight is a First Amendment fight and one that every American must be involved with, which is why we have created ‘Don’t Touch My Dial’ as a vehicle for mass participation.”