Media and Government Speech Regulation

Following on to my post here a few days ago about how the Boston Globe‘s faux-cover attacking Trump exposes the reckless futility of government regulation of political speech, take in this interesting tidbit from Michael Tomasky’s latest dispatch about the presidential race in the New York Review of Books:

In mid-March, mediaQuant, a firm that tracks media coverage of candidates and assigns a dollar value to that coverage based on advertising rates, compared how much each candidate had spent on “paid” media (television ads) and how much each candidate had been given in “free” media (news coverage). Bush, for example, had spent $82 million on paid media and received $214 million in free media. For Rubio, those respective numbers were $55 million and $204 million. For Cruz, $22 million and $313 million. For Sanders, $28 million and $321 million. For Clinton, $28 million and $746 million (in her case, much of that free media was negative, relating to the State Department e-mails).

And Trump? He’d spent not more than $10 million on paid media and received $1.9 billion in free media. That’s nearly triple the other three major Republican candidates combined.

The lopsidedness of this analysis reminds us once again that Trump is largely a media creation, but moreover it should also remind us of why most mainstream media outlets love the idea of “campaign finance reform”—it will enhance their power even more.

Here’s a mischievous proposal for the New York Times, CBS, etc: Let’s require that the media give all candidates equal time (or column inches in print), and have the media’s compliance strictly regulated and overseen by the Federal Election Commission. Second, since so much of campaign spending is on TV advertising, let’s require that political advertising rates be deeply discounted by media outlets to reduce the high cost of campaigns. (Typically TV ad rates go up during campaign season because the demand is so much higher.)

And then let’s see how enthusiastic the media is for “campaign finance reform.”

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