The Award for Broadcast Industry Taxpayer Funded Lapdog Goes to the Media Institute

Cited Article

Patrick Maines, The Schemes and “Confessions” of Reed Hundt, Huffington Post, April 24, 2010.  Patrick Maines is the executive director of the Media Institute.

My Comment

Patrick Maines is a paid lobbyist for the broadcast industry, but, unlike most lobbyists, one paid for at taxpayer expense because the Media Institute is registered as a non-profit, so the lobbying expense is tax deductible. One way that Maines earns his keep is to serve as a bully boy for the broadcast industry.  The folks who control local TV and radio news hide anonymously behind rocks while cheering Maines on to do the stone throwing.  The politicians, who know who are behind those rocks, all get the message, so Maines is well worth the broadcasters’ money.

The stone throwing is, of course, to be expected from Maines. But what is over-the-top for me is his accusation that Hundt acts “clandestinely.”  This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.  Over the years I many times tried to attend the Media Institute’s taxpayer funded events on behalf of the broadcasting industry.  I was always told “no.”  Even our partisan think tanks open the doors to the public without regard to ideology–but not the secretive broadcast industry, which has always operated on the principle that the less the public knows about its lobbying activities and its economic self interest, the better.

And for Maines to accuse the FCC of playing industry favorites when the broadcasting industry has always made that a centerpiece of its lobbying campaigns for government handouts worth tens of billions of dollars (think “preserving free TV”).  Well, such an argument is absolutely shameless.

Note that I don’t dispute Maines’s sincere interest in pushing First Amendment and pro-competition agendas.  But when the broadcast industry’s economic self-interest and lobbying agenda come in conflict with First Amendment and pro-competitive values–as they often do–Maines has consistently revealed his hand by either remaining quiet or pretending that the conflict doesn’t exist. The fact is, Hundt has been more of a champion of the Media Institute’s self-proclaimed values than the Media Institute itself.

An additional caveat is that when I say the “broadcast industry” I don’t literally mean just the broadcast industry.  What I mean is “broadcast related.”  Just as companies often expect their vendors, such as lawyers, to chip in with campaign contributions, broadcasters expect their vendors to do the same and their vendors have a long track record of doing so.  Go to the the annual NAB Show, and you’ll see the reason for this you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-your-back synergy.  My guess is that at least 80% of the Media Institute’s money is broadcast related.

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