As we have discussed before, there have been many media stories and protests concerning Koch’s rumored interest in a newspaper acquisition. Over the past week, Reed Hundt, a former Federal Communications Commission Chairman under President Clinton, a self-described “progressive,” and a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team, joined the ranks of those who have weighed in on the rumors. In so doing, Mr. Hundt attacked Koch and urged the FCC to change its rules with the hope that it would prevent Koch from possibly acquiring the Tribune Company, which includes the Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers.
Mr. Hundt claimed that he could not “imagine anything good from [Koch] owning the LA Times,” and falsely accused us of “distort[ing] the political discourse” and “dumb[ing] down the country.” He also stated that, “if this were Russia or China, they would have kept their mouths shut or long since have moved to London – the first resort of the stateless – unless Putin or the Politburo approved their propaganda.”
Mr. Hundt then advocated that the FCC do away with the rules limiting cross ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market so that Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. could own the LA Times rather than Koch. Ironically, Mr. Hundt enforced those same FCC rules against cross ownership and never sought to relax them when he was FCC Chairman. Indeed, in 2003, he claimed that efforts to do so were “the culmination of the attack by the right on the media.” At that time, he advocated for maintaining the rules, as well as “market structures that provide multiple voices” and decried “regulations that tell people what to say.” However, Mr. Hundt has changed his point of view and now wants the rules against cross ownership relaxed so someone other than the Kochs, with whom he disagrees on political and public policy issues, can own the LA Times. Thus, while Mr. Hundt once claimed to believe that the public interest was served best by “market structures that provide multiple voices” and was against “regulations that tell people what to say,” he now wants to silence Koch’s point of view by changing the regulatory process.
Koch has and always will support freedom of speech, free markets, and individual liberties. We believe, as Mr. Hundt apparently once may have believed, that consistent with the First Amendment it is in the public interest for there to be more points of views in the media and in the marketplace of ideas. While we do not oppose removing government restrictions that would permit more competing market entrants, we object to Mr. Hundt’s disturbing proposal that the government change the rules in order to punish one group or individual and favor another group or individual because of a disagreement over their exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech concerning political and public policy views.