What The Media Tell
Americans About Free Enterprise
No Deregulatory Voices Allowed
Network journalists seem to think
it's unnecessary to mention free-market arguments when reporting on
Take telecommunications reform.
Conservatives praised the passage of the telecom bill two years ago
as a step toward free-market competition, but warned that it was not
problem-free. For instance, the bill did not eliminate many barriers
to competition, and it set up massive new subsidies.
On the April 29 World Today,
CNN's Charles Molineaux reported on an effort by local phone
companies to raise their residential rates. According to Molineaux
and the sources he presented, deregulation is the problem.
Molineaux interviewed only
pro-regulation sources, such as Consumers Union's Gene Kimmelman,
who wants more government control: "We would like to see the
regulators crack down, hold prices down to cost." According to
Molineaux, only increasing subsidies will stop price increases.
Industry representives, he said, "promise a new subsidy will kick in
once state and federal universal service funds begin operation."
Missing from Molineaux's report was
any free-market perspective. James Gattuso, writing for the Citizens
for a Sound Economy Foundation, argues that until "Congress and
regulators take further steps to eliminate barriers to competition
and wasteful subsidies, consumers won't enjoy the full benefits of
the telecommunications future."
The same pattern of ignoring
free-market arguments applies to environmental reporting. On May,
the Interior Department reported that the bald eagle had been taken
off the endangered species list. This prompted NBC Nightly News
to run a story about the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
According to correspondent Robert
Hager, "For decades, the Endangered Species Act has been
passionately defended by some for saving majestic species, not only
eagles, but cranes, wildcats, pelicans, and more. But [it's]
maligned by others who say it sometimes goes too far, costs jobs in
the timber industry to preserve the habitat of the small spotted
owl, [and] a big power project blocked to save a three-inch fish
called the snail darter."
The only person Hager interviewed for
soundbites was Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, a champion of the
Had Hager interviewed a free-market
critic of the ESA, viewers would have learned that in addition to
harming the economy, the ESA puts endangered species in more danger.
Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes: "By
turning wildlife assets into economic liabilities, the ESA
encourages landowners to destroy habitat, even to 'shoot, shovel,
and shut up.' The ESA harms the very species it is supposed to
There is a free-market side to every
regulatory issue, but network news viewers are rarely told of it.
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