Sunday, May 16, 2010

Senate Republicans Move to Create a State Sanctioned Media

From the people who brought you "Censorship of the Blog", get ready for the "Michigan Registered Reporter" designation, an interesting (and perhaps unconstitutional) bit of legislation that seems to scream "Get the ACLU on the phone" as you read it. We'll let the wackies at the Mackie Center condense it down for you...

Senate Bill 1323 (Establish “Michigan Registered Reporter" registration and screening criteria )

Introduced by Sen. Bruce Patterson (R) on May 11, 2010, to create a government “Board of Michigan Registered Reporters” to pass on the qualifications under criteria established in the bill for an individual who seeks to use the title “Michigan Registered Reporter.” An individual who writes or creates news stories, commentaries or editorials for a newspaper, online news outlet or radio or TV broadcaster, and who wants to use this title, would have to have a journalism degree, at least three years experience as a reporter, submit writing samples, present evidence of awards or recognitions and a letter of recognition from a reporter who is “registered,” and pay a $10 fee. A person using a generic label such as “reporter,” “broadcaster,” “member of the media,” or others would not have to register. The bill would not require any institution to discriminate on the basis of having this credential, nor would it prohibit this.

Define "institution". While this is an obvious slap at bloggers and "citizen journalists" - it goes a lot farther than that. Reporters will have to pass a strict set of rules to become "registered". Is this the first step towards limiting access to government to only those that have passed some arbitrary ruling of a political board? Besides the stringent outlines described above, check out this section of the bill:

(2) In order to qualify, an applicant shall comply with the following: (a) Be of good moral character and demonstrate, by a signed statement, knowledge of any acceptable industry wide ethics standards acceptable to the board.

Define "good moral character". Since this applies to editorialists as well, simply holding an opinion that is contrary to the establishment could be deemed "immoral" by a board packed with political appointees. And the phrase "acceptable to the board", when it comes to "industry wide ethics standards", means that they can pick and choose what ethics they wish to follow.

And this gets you... what, exactly?

Half-off your coffee from Biggby's? Preferred parking? The golden key to the orgy room at the Capitol Building? (you think we don't know about that?) No, you jump through all these hoops, get sanctioned by the board, and for $10 (raising taxes on reporters!) you get to use the term "Michigan Registered Reporter". Whoopee.

Sec. 809. A person shall not use the term "Michigan registered reporter" unless he or she is registered under this article. However, a person is not required to become registered under this article to be employed as, or use, the generic label or title of reporter, broadcaster, member of the media, or other similar term.

So, why would you need this? Public events are public events, and you won't be able to stop people from writing or "reporting" on them. Does this mean that government access or events will be restricted to "Michigan Registered Reporters" only at some point in time? You know, only those reporters that sign the loyalty oath pass the litmus test of whatever some political board decides is "moral and ethical behavior"?

Is that where this is going?

I would love to hear what traditional reporters think of this. Seems a huge overreach on the part of the state to try and control those that report on government activities, if that is indeed what they are doing. This will never stop citizen journalists - it only places a huge burden on an industry that has been for all intensive purposes obliterated in the past decade. There are very few mainstream reporters left now, and if the government can whittle those down to an "approved" list of people... well, some may consider that a big threat to transparency from government.

And we don't even have to get into how hypocritical it is that the GOTea Party that is running around screaming about "transparency" and "cutting government" is actually suggesting that we create more government that apparently will try to regulate the media.

But what else is new.