McSlarrow: First Amendment Is Shield, Not Sword

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow used the platform of his acceptance speech for the Media Institute's First Amendment award Wednesday night to say the trend lines in the daily battle of ideas are not comforting.

He suggested that in that battle, his opponents are using the First Amendment, when they are thinking about it at all, as a sword in the hands of government to promote their values, rather then the shield he believes it should be against "government encroachment. That observation drew applause from the media execs in the crowd.

He pointed out that the Media Institute does not have the funding to match a lot of other organizations and think tanks, and that the Progress & Freedom Foundation, another Washington-based First Amendment/free market think tank, had just shut its doors due in part to lack of funding.

He contrasted that with "large donors and philanthropic groups" pouring "millions of dollar"s into groups and organizations that have "a very different view of how they would shape the media and telecommunications landscape."

He did not name names, though he said some of them were his friends, but said they have a "severely cramped view" of the role of "creators" and entrepreneurs that have driven innovation over the past few decades. But he said they have a "very expansive view of the possibilities for government action to help promote values that they deem worthy of promotion."

McSlarrow said he was not saying that the sky was falling or that there was not funding for the values his side is promoting. His point, he said, was: "We are in a serious fight and we need intellectual firepower from groups and organizations that have the integrity and willingness to focus in ways that they can bring their talents to bear to be joined in this fight."

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who received the Horizon Award for industry leadership, praised McSlarrow and keynote speaker Meredith Attwell Baker for their leadership. He praised McSlarrow for "reminding us why property rights are vital for keeping the press free and independent." He called Baker "one of the brightest people to sit on the FCC," and someone who recognized that the "first protection of freedom of the press is limited government."

Saying that he had a vested interest as a publisher in people who could read, Murdoch used his time on the dais to call for public school reform

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.