Kiver: Three things Capitol Hill Republicans can do to end war on conservative media
The mainstream media has been waging a war on conservatives for the better part of the decade, but the intensity is now at an all-time high with the election of President Donald J. Trump.
Today, the message of limited government is being silenced on television, targeted through taxation, and even the subject of attack from so-called independent government agencies.
This consumer access problem may be snowballing, but that is not to say Capitol Hill conservatives are not strong enough to roll it back.
Conservatives outside of Washington have a right to be frustrated. The Republican Party controls both the executive and legislative branches, but with the liberal stranglehold on the mainstream media, the hapless Republicans hold all the cards and still fold.
Here are three essential steps Capitol Hill conservatives can take to rebalance leftwing domination of our mass communications grid.
1. End the government created broadcast monopolies
Why are there an overwhelming number of liberal television outlets but only one major conservative source? It is not just a matter of having public demand – after all, self-identified Republicans outnumber Democrats by an 11-point margin – it is also a question of who has the most money and best rapport with powerful, unelected bureaucrats.
The reason cable news is dominated by just a few behemoths is that no one can establish a new broadcast organization without federal approval and the payment of sizeable dues to Uncle Sam. Many would assume that puts – you guessed it – liberals – in a better position for success.
The left also maintains its media empire due to regulatory schemes, including ceilings on a number of stations broadcasters can control and restrictions on television stations’ sharing of advertising revenue.
Thankfully, today is a more promising time than ever for reform. Ajit Pai, Trump’s like-minded Federal Communications Commission head, has already spent some time removing red tape, allowing right-leaning companies like Sinclair Broadcasting Group to expand.
However, Congress and the White House should pressure him to go even further and make leveling the broadcasting playing field a hallmark of his tenure at the commission.
2. Kill the proposed advertising tax
The rise of the Internet has certainly helped conservatives cut through the several decades’ old media cartel to reach their audience with fewer disruptions – however, resurrecting an old tax idea in Congress has the potential to change that.
As part of the upcoming 2017 tax reform proposal, some in Congress are reportedly looking at adopting old provisions from a 2014 tax reform blueprint championed by former congressman David L. Camp, then-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
In his blueprint, the Michigan Republican proposed an advertising tax. This levy changes advertising from being a normal, 100 percent deductible annual business expense to one that is only 50 percent deductible, with the remaining 50 percent amortized over 10 years.
If passed, this provision will be a disaster for the right-leaning media. Conservatives receive their news from online news sites, blogs, and other internet platforms at a disproportionate rate than liberals.
At the same time, the party of limited government also dominates the radio talk show circuit – another industry heavily dependent on advertising. While this tax will do little damage to The New York Times or The Washington Post, it will likely serve a hard blow to some of the Reaganesque print and broadcast outlets that cannot afford to wait ten years to receive their money back. As such, Congress and the “Big Six” tax reform panel should squish the idea while it still can.
3. De-politicize the Federal Election Commission
Apparently, even independent agencies are after the conservative message.
In what many consider an effort to reduce the power of conservative media, Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat FEC commissioner, has spearheaded an inquisition into the ad revenue sources for news sites like the Drudge Report.
Weintraub alleges her goal is to crack down on possible foreign influencers in the 2017 presidential election.
Translation: She wants to use the Russia hysteria in the political arena as an excuse to launch her own series of purges and show trials right-leaning news outlets.
Trump already took steps to mitigate partisan interest peddling at the commission this month. He recently nominated Republican Trey Trainor to fill one of the vacancies. Once Trainor is confirmed, and Republican Matthew Petersen leaves for his judgeship, the Republicans will hold their 3-1.
With conservatives dominating the FEC, there is likely nothing to worry about for the time being. However, the second we go back to a deadlocked commission, as is intended, we will almost certainly see more liberal decision-making – whether there are more case studies in having a stricter set of rules for Fox News than CNN or progressive commissioners unilaterally expanding the jurisdiction of the FEC to hurt Trump.
Fending off the war on the conservative media may be an uphill battle, but conservatives have faced and overcome hard tough odds before.
Washington bureaucrats can temporarily limit free speech and free markets – sure – but no one can kill ideas and strong political movements with a regulatory wand. Passion wins battles, and conservatives have plenty of it, along with complete control of Washington.
Now is not the time for Capitol Hill conservatives to give up. The time to win this fight is now.