- Freeing The Press And Making Democracy Effective -

"During times of universal deceit, telling the
truth becomes a revolutionary act."
George Orwell

Editorial Freedom Act

- On Separating Editorship From Ownership and Undoing
Oligarchy In A Corporate Media -

- Preamble -

"In the interests of fair, honest, accurate, and complete news gathering and reporting, and to assure access for the broadest spectrum of opinion and expression, and to protect editors from professional retribution, the Editorial Freedom Act prohibits major media owners, licensees, and their agents from bribing, threatening, subjecting to undue intimidation, or discrimination in hiring, for the purpose of influencing editorial content, any employee in an editorial capacity— i.e., those whose function is critical to the fair and accurate collection, reporting, and dissemination of news and information.

Said crime of editorial influence, intimidation, discrimination and/or professional retribution, shall be punishable by a jail term of up to ten years, and may include the forfeiture, divestiture of license, franchise, and/or equity interests, as well as fines deemed appropriate by oversight commissions or courts of law.

The protection of the public forum in major print and broadcast media, from editorial manipulation of news and information, hiring discrimination, and dis-information and omission is herein deemed of paramount importance to democratic practices and values. Therefore, the crime of editorial influence, corruption, retribution, and content dictation or omission shall be vigorously prosecuted and punished. In addition, for major media corporations, an independent review panel shall be established to review and approve hirings and dismissals in key news editorial personnel.

In view of the public’s award of a limited number of media franchises, increasing media concentration of ownership, near or virtual monopoly conditions in media markets, policies of editorial sameness working to exclude alternative viewpoints, and editorial intimidation all conspire to create an intolerable condition in media forums both public and private.  Exactly these modern media market conditions, and the potential for influence by a privileged few, calls for the highest degree of editorial fairness, integrity, and necessary legislative protections in the public interest.

For these reasons, it is the intent of this legislation to prevent establishment of any ideological or commercial precondition, or necessity to adhere to any political, economic, or religious belief or affiliation as requirement for editorial employment in major media organizations— i.e., those with a substantial impact, reach, and position in the marketplace.

The intent of this legislation is to prevent deliberate or de-facto editorial omission and bias, discrimination in hiring and firing, and the establishment of a narrow, doctrinal, one-factor, media environment. Regardless of whether such condition arises via market monopolization, oligopoly, advertiser coercion, one factor’s (Capital or Labor) position of influence, or retribution against dissident editors, it is for the purpose of protecting the integrity of the editorial function, within such major media sources, and ensuring the very integrity of our democracy that this Editorial Freedom Act is enacted."

(*reprinted from Cap-Com, The Economics Of Balance)



"There is no such thing in America as an independent press.. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares write his honest opinions, and if you did you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid... for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper ... others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things... any of you who would be so foolish as to write his honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job... We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, possibilities, and lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

John Swinton

Where a parity of public and private media is missing, so then is editorial diversity and critical balance of opinion.  Where a mostly private, corporate, media environment exists, and editor hirings and firings are the exclusive province of a handful of owners, then the potential for pure plutocracy and denial of democracy is complete.  Indeed, no effective democracy can exist wherever information and media are monopolized by either "factor" to the socio-economic equation - i.e. capital or labor.

Yet exactly this condition of "factor" imbalance, and one-factor's monopoly of media now serves to distort our media, economy, and democracy. In contrast to the media estate at the founding of the Republic, for-profit media now spans the globe and ever-increasing concentration of ownership allows a handful of owners, and their hand-picked editors, to shape debate, spin or disappear dissent, and control the very currency of democracy. In this setting, a "five-hundred channel" environment and unread internet sites mean nothing if all major radio and television media channels are controlled by the same factor - capital - and set to its purposes.

In short, capital alone now controls "our"economy, media, central bank, campaign finance system and so, in effect, our democracy. In practice, the vast majority of wage-earning citizen’s concerns and interests are systematically denied and disappeared. As a result, only capital’s ideas, values, and distorted "free market" and "free trade" concerns reach the public.

While, in theory, politicians may threaten media owners with license review or anti-trust action, it is media owners who possess the greater weapon today – i.e., one useful against incumbent politicians fearful of bad press, lack of access, and endorsement of opponents. Exactly this sorry, quid-pro-quo, relationship leads to media corruption and grid-lock benefiting a ruling, corporate, class.

"I'm the chief executive. I set policy and I’m not going to surround myself with people who disagree with me."

Otis Chandler, LA Times

"The press is the hired agent of a monied system, and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where their interests are involved."

Henry B. Adams

Without editorial freedom we cannot displace oligarchy, oligopoly, and restore effective democracy.  Today's concentration of media ownership and editorial power brings into sharp focus not only the immense responsibility, but also the freedom and estate of editors - in particular those with audiences in the millions, or even billions. Yet it is major-media owners, and their hand-picked editors, who decide what the vast majority see, hear, and read. Media owners and their editors have become the unelected, and unregulated, keepers of the public trust and molders of the public mind.

In this setting, the vast wage-earning majority have no say in major-media editor hirings and firings and so possess no effective means to implement a balance.  As commercialization and cleansing of the internet continues the people have little or no control over the content of their informational life-blood, within major media organizations.  Instead, a handful of owners, editors, and news agencies control the facts and opinions flowing to ever-greater numbers.  Thus, the impact of the editorial powers of a handful of private concerns grow to global proportions.   This is an intolerable condition in a democracy.

A once freer, more representative and local, press has been replaced by a one-factor-owned "fourth estate" — and one with but one ideology and infallible agenda.  But whose information is it? Particularly in an era when for-profit mega-media is acquiring global influence, the problem with employee-editor relationships is that the public has no way to protect editors, or the public interest, from any owner’s ideologies, influence, political candidate preferences, and retribution against dissident editors or journalists. Major media owners remain free to treat editors as at-will employees, and thus to manage opinion and content as their private preserve.

"I’m going to vote for Bush because its good for my company."

Sumner Redstone, CEO Viacom

Given the importance of editorial positions, and today’s degree of media concentration and control by one factor, editors within major media concerns need to be protected, and established, as quasi-public employees - i.e., those charged with minting, and not counterfeiting, our information currency. Where editors have no real independence or protection from their employers, the public’s media rights and information interests are then jeopardized, if not ruined.

The public interest is clearly not represented or balanced today against a major media owner’s hiring prerogatives and ability to threaten the jobs and careers of employee editors. Given this state of affairs, media is per se corrupt as the public has neither ownership interest, control, equal amount of media, nor any recourse over those who edit a privatized information stream sold to, and foisted upon, the public for a for-profit purpose.

This corrupt condition is comparable to privatizing the federal mint and eliminating all regulation on those who print and distribute our money. With media, our information currency in being minted in any amount, and ideological denomination, that corporate owners and their hand-picked editors determine. Given this condition, simply the potential for editorial corruption and imbalance is enough to warrant legislation protecting editors - i.e, those employed by major media and network organizations of a certain size and reach.

As a vital first reform, and prior to achieving any public-private, or factor-balanced, parity of media ownership, exactly this Editorial Freedom Act remedy should be employed to protect editors, and the integrity of our information stream.

The one-sided, capital-oriented, nature of media ownership and content today is the best argument against further privatization, and a strong brief for more public ownership and editorial participation. For-profit networks today create prodigious amounts of scandal-gossip "journalism" while they ignore and black-out what is going on in our boardrooms, economies, environments, and legislatures in order to render invisible the real powers in our lives.

"Liberal media. It's the joke of jokes, isn't it? You would think that Noam Chomsky is on every night."

Studs Terkel

"Democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent at the same time that it enhances the power of the state and the privileged interests that the state protects... Sadly, in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth."

Bill Moyers

The public’s distemper and cynicism today is largely due to the fact that major media is unrepresentative of the vast, wage-earning, public and currently structured to prevent a full-spectrum of opinion, fact, and belief. In short, the public is now disenfranchised in yet another way as there is no effective democracy left in the media realm, and no "advise and consent" role performed by and for the vast majority.

As if concentration in one medium were not enough, nearly all major book publishers are now owned by media-conglomerates. Smaller, independent, houses are failing, unable to get distribution, or chained to the bottom line and to agendas calling for avoidance of ideas angering media owners, advertisers, and capital in general. First with newspapers, then with television, and now with books and the internet, capital’s media coup is nearly complete... and the Big Sleep has begun.

In practice, a handful of media owners and editors have become the unelected gatekeepers of public truth and discourse. Accountable to no public body, they control the mass of information today and have the power to distort the intellectual underpinnings of society, seek government favor for further concentration, and act to deny and disappear the interests of the vast majority.

Today’s gross imbalance between public and private media ownerships and editorial powers is not only an insult to the great majority but also a serious risk to democracy. In the realm of information and ideas, we are not dealing with toothpaste and toasters but with truth, balance, and the very thought-currency of a free republic. Without factor balance in media, or sanctions for editorial misfeasance, coercion, and professional retribution our editors, and the public they serve, will remain complicit captives and neo-slaves in capital’s information monopoly.

"Washington's presstitutes, by helping Washington demonize Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Manning, Assange, and Ecuador, have demonstrated to the world that the US media is devoid of integrity and that nothing it reports can be believed. The US print and TV media and NPR comprise a ministry of propaganda for Washington's immoral agendas."

Paul Craig Roberts

"Add the fear and sense of victimization from the 9-11 attacks and a new political model suddenly lay open as a possibility for the United States. It would be a post-modern authoritarian system that would rely less on traditional repression of political opponents than on a sophisticated media operation to intimidate and marginalize dissidents."

Robert Parry

"On May 18, 2012, under amendment 114 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the House passed a bill that would allow the state department and the defense department to utilize psychological operations within the U.S. borders… this legislation would greenlight the manipulation of newspapers, radio, tv, websites and internet media to overtly shape public opinion in America."

Victor Thorn

It is media owners who are free today and not the press, wage-earning majority, or any at-will-employed editor or journalist. Given a pervasive factor-imbalance in media, and the reality that most editors are not independently wealthy or publicly paid, their hirings and firings should - within media of a certain size and influence - be subject to public scrutiny and sanctions if necessary. Otherwise, without levers, the people are removed from the "free press" equation.

More than ever before, the Achilles’ heel of democracy is found in the absence of adequate public, non-profit, media and lack of participation in editor hiring and firing decisions. To the extent of imbalance between public and private media ownerships, and editorial influence, some form of editor protection becomes necessary and vital. Ownership must be separated from editorship. Unlike other employees, in performing what is clearly a quasi-public function, editors of our information currency need special protection from their employers, and appropriate sanctions must apply whether media is private or public in form.

As keepers of the public trust, no editor or reporter should feel they must tow a party line or ruling elite’s agenda, avoid taboo subjects, or protect ownership's interests out of fear for their job and professional status. Yet precisely this lack of freedom and true independence is the estate of editors within a media world which capital alone now owns, controls, and edits.

In the absence of any other rights or sanctions, media owner’s have a private, undisturbed, right to mold opinion as they see fit, and maintain a mere pretense of objectivity, or none at all. They may not hire those with whom they disagree, and fire any who stray from their party line. Objectivity and Fairness Doctrines have been dropped and major media ownership prerogatives now prevail. Employers fearful for their jobs know what not to broach. Repression is unspoken.

For editors and public alike reality is far from ideal. Ronald Collins described reality in the media world today: "mirroring a trend in the broadcast industry, growing numbers of newspaper publishers have dropped any pretense of serving the public, the rallying cry today is... corporate profits. When dominant, this orientation can feed a pro-advertiser atmosphere in the newsroom. Referring to newsrooms where there is no overt economic censorship, one executive said: `it would be a mistake to make a conspiracy theory out of it.’ Rather, he pointed out, `you get an establishment attitude on the part of the press, because original souls don’t thrive in such an atmosphere, and the people who are there don’t want to displease those who hired them... they have a sense of what can get them into trouble. And what can get them into trouble is bucking the advertising imperative, even in the name of the public’s right to know." I rest my case.

The enclosure of media by capital exists without any recognition of the need to achieve editorial freedom or factor balance in the fourth estate. Worse, there are few, if any, penalties for editorial manipulation, discrimination, and media owner’s reprisals against dissident editors. With such power in the hands of the few, the very issues, editorial freedoms, and sanctions of the kind suggested here are sure to be taboo. No remedies are then introduced, or enforced, by editors and politicians who live in fear of media moguls able to make and break their careers.



"In February 2003, A Florida Court Of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States."

Project Censored

Will an Editorial Freedom Act be debated in the media?

As things stand, media owners have the power to make politicians tremble at the thought of disturbing their information monopolies. This influence of a handful of media corporations has grown to neutralize government and steal the powers of the people. Global media giants have become a de-facto, privatized, form of government - i.e., one empowering a world-wide oligarchy and dictatorship of capital.

With media ownership having become a power second to none, the "fourth estate" has become the first - i.e., a ruling regime unaccountable to the public and run by a handful of people. Media and the "free press" have thus become defective, dangerous, and undemocratic institutions for our failure to separate ownership from editorial control, and arrange a vital and necessary balance of public and private sources of information.

With the "Fairness Doctrine" gone and remaining laws subverted by regulatory agencies controlled by industry appointees, networks regularly deny the requests of even the President of the United States for television airtime... and so deny to the American people access to their own airwaves. In a final insult, those who own, control, and edit the editors expect the public to believe their one factor monopoly - within a money-corrupted political system no less - will somehow protect the marketplace of ideas and estate of the majority.

Clearly, the concentrated ownership and global reach of mega-media concerns, and difficulty of market entry, are developments unforeseen by both the writers of the U.S. constitution and classical economists. The founders took a raucous, diverse, and locally-owned, free press for granted - as one might do in a time when entry into the field was relatively easy and inexpensive. This state of affairs is no longer the case. New societal and marketplace conditions require new reforms and greater public empowerments in order to free the press.

Despite mitigating influences from the internet, today’s press and media are no longer as free or open to competition, and they remain owned and editorially controlled by capital and a handful of mega-corporations. This new media estate calls for new laws to deal with a far more monopolized, globalized, and factor-imbalanced media.

"It will make a sensation, didn't you see the reporters scribbling like mad while he was speaking?... Not a line will appear in tomorrow’s papers... Not a word that he uttered will see print. You have forgotten the editors. They draw their salaries for the policy they maintain. Their policy is to print nothing that is a vital menace to the established... The newspapers will purge his heresy in the oblivion of silence. The press of the United States? It is a parasitic growth that battens on the Capitalist class. Its function is to serve the established by moulding public opinion."

Jack London, The Iron Heel

"A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it's going to get."

Ian Willams Goddard

As a start, new rules for owner-editor relationships are needed to offset one factor's, and one owner's, powers in the media realm. Whether media is private or public in form, new protections for editors are critical. As proposed here, an Editorial Freedom Act has several purposes: namely, to free editors to do their job, to strike a healthy fear into major-media owners, ensure a broad spectrum of opinion, equal time for wage-labor's interests, and enable elected representatives to pass remedies without fear of reprisals from a ruling elite's media empire.

Obviously, major-media owners will not embrace losing ownership or editorial powers - even for the public good. Regardless, given a dangerous concentration of media power, lack of factor balance or parity between public and private ownerships, the information environment demands editor protections as a first step in reforming the fourth estate.

It is now clear the need has arisen to separate ownership from editorial control, and editorial practice from undue influence and ideological imbalance. To better understand this situation, we need only consider to what lengths we go to protect our money from counterfeiting while, at the same time, the currency of information remains unprotected and freely mintable by the few who own and control the media - and subject to counterfeit by a handful of the rich and powerful.

In sum, despite the internet, the scope of debate and public perception is now mint-able according to the whims of a handful of owners. In addition to representing only one factor to the socio-economic equation, capital's hand-picked, at-will, employee editors are subject to firing and professional retribution for the crime of independence. We will either correct this sorry condition in the very near future or slink toward riot and revolution as capital proceeds to exploit wage-laboring majorities the world over. Indeed, as Emile Zola wrote "If you shut up the truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way."

Corporations that control the media

CIA owns the media

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."

William Casey, CIA Director

In Bellamy's World, A Free Press

"What about periodicals and newspapers. If you have newspapers at all I fancy they must be published by the government at public expense, with government editors reflecting government opinions. If this is the case, what then of dissent and a free press?"

Dr. Leete
"I'm afraid I must disabuse you of such notions. The newspaper press is organized so as to be a more perfect expression of public opinion that it could possible have been in your day, when it was controlled and managed by the rich and primarily a money-making business."

"But if the government prints the papers at public expense, how can it fail to control the editorial policy. Who appoints the editors if not the government?"

Dr. Leete
"But the government does not pay the expense or appoint the editors. The people who take the paper pay the expense of publication, they choose their own editors, and remove them if unsatisfactory. This arrangement, I dare say, is truly a free press."

"I must admit, in our day the free press, as it were, was essentially an organ of the rich and established powers who hired and fired their own editors and set the policy."

Dr. Leeete
"Indeed. Now, anyone can publish, gain subscribers, have an editor elected by subscribers, and thus gain remission from service due to credits allocated by subscribers. Our editors manage these papers just as in your day, only they have no counting house to obey, or any interests of private capital as against the public good to defend."

"A most critical point."

Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy, 1887

Editorial Freedom Act condensed from the chapter on Media in Cap-Com,
The Economics of Balance by Kent Welton. Available on Amazon.com


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Videos and Websites Of Interest:

Media Reform Information Center
Media Ownership Chart
Press Freedom Foundation
Facebook and Google - Secret Revealed
How the CFR controls the media in America
The Murdoch Empire: How media shapes society
Orwell Rolls In His Grave
Who Really Owns the Mainstream Media
Who Owns the Media

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