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FCC's Mark Lloyd: "allow me to clear away some mud"

Mark Lloyd

Mark Lloyd

The Federal Communications Commission’s Diversity Officer defended himself this morning from the veritable avalanche of attacks he has sustained since he took his job. Speaking at a Washington, D.C. conference, Mark Lloyd asked to be allowed to “clear away some mud:”

“I am not a Czar appointed by President Obama. I am not at the FCC to restore the Fairness Doctrine through the front door or the back door, or to carry out a secret plot funded by George Soros to get rid of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or any other conservative talk show host. I am not at the FCC to remove anybody, whatever their color, from power. I am not a supporter of Hugo Chavez. The right wing smear campaign has been, in a word – incredible, generating hate mail and death threats. It is the price we pay for freedom of speech. And I do support free speech.”

We’ve been following this story here for a while. The sheer level of hysteria that has followed Lloyd’s tenure has made it all but impossible to have a reasonable debate about his ideas, some of which I agree with, particularly rules encouraging more local media—although I don’t want them in order to ensure more “balance” in programming.

In any event, while Lloyd sounds somewhat scarred by the rhetoric of the last few months (including threats made against him), it isn’t often that you hear a speech as historically grounded as this one:

“We Americans have been wrestling with the problem of what policies to put in place to promote an informed citizenry since the founding of the nation. Even though Madison believed that communication between North and South might lead to a civil war, even though Madison worked to delay any debate about slavery in Congress, he believed that communication service to all was necessary to establish a more perfect union. The answer Madison and the founders settled on in 1792 was to establish a government run program, a program that dwarfed every other government operation of the time – the Post Office – and to subsidize the distribution of newspapers.

I do not suggest that we return to that model, only that we have something to learn from it. Much has changed since the late 1700s. But all the new technologies, from the telegraph to radio to television to cable and now to the Internet, have not solved the problem of promoting an informed citizenry. Despite all the early promise and fervent hope renewed with each new communications technology, we still face the challenge of how to provide a people who mean to be their own governors the information they need.”

It’s a shame that this important (and interesting) discussion has been buried in sludge for the last few months. The other problem that broadcasting/localism/diversity questions face is that they’ve been almost completely subsumed by broadband issues. The broadband project is so huge that it has eclipsed localism and other questions at the FCC,  except of course when somebody wants to rant that any attempt to encourage localism is really a secret attempt to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

Not sure where the light is in this particular tunnel . . .

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